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I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World
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I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  322 ratings  ·  65 reviews
From President Obama's political rhetoric to the housing bubble bust, James Geary proves in this fascinating and entertaining book that every aspect of our experience is molded by metaphor.

"It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!" This is one of Shakespeare's most famous lines and one of the most well-known metaphors in literature. But metaphor is much more than a mere lite
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 20th 2011)
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Thank you, James Geary! By writing this elegant, concise, clear account of the central role that metaphor plays, not just in how we speak and communicate, but also in how we think, you have liberated me. For about two years now I've been walking around with a kind of Sisyphean pebble in my shoe, a constant, niggling, low-grade annoyance that resisted all my efforts to resolve it. You see, there's this other book, Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff (Mark Johnson is listed as a second author on ...more
A suave compliment to Edward de Bono’s ‘Lateral thinking’ paradigm, this breezy compilation of cognitive association research kept me busy for a good two hours deciphering high school puzzles and engaging in blatant Pavlovian consumerism displays. Literally.

In the chapter ‘metaphor and advertising’, I gained no new insights, but this did not prevent me from falling prey to advertising gimmicks. Is someone paying James Geary to flog these things, but look here: this is an Hourglass Coffee maker,
Most people don't realize how metaphors permeate our everyday language and thought. ("Permeate" is a metaphor.) James Geary's book emphatically and with ample evidence makes the point about the ubiquity of metaphor/simile/analogy. "Metaphor lives a secret life all around us. We utter about one metaphor for every ten to twenty-five words, or about six metaphors a minute." For example, looking at an Aug. 5, 2001, San Jose Mercury News A1 story and headlines on the Dow Jones average losing 512.76 ...more
Dave Wise
I love this book. When I first skimmed it, I came across "he was deeply in Love. when she spoke he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up." And I was hooked (oops, another metaphor!). A key point in this book is that we use metaphor without realising it and in fact our language is pretty much made up of phrases that once were metaphor and became cliche that we accept them as part of our language in the same way 'bread' means bread. Every new word created is somehow a m ...more
A metaphor is a direct comparison not using "like" or "as," or so it's defined in school. And personification, well... that's personification. But in James Geary's I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor, a wider net is cast and personification along with most every other figurative construction is metaphoric. In fact, the book will widen your metaphoric horizons until you will be harder pressed to identify what's NOT metaphoric.

Just so you know.

OK, by chapter, Geary also takes on the big pic
I never metaphor I didn't like.
An exceptionally easy read considering James Geary's delving into the scientific aspects of metaphor. He incorporated not merely an exploration of the communicative art of metaphor, but also its psychological underpinnings which made for an especially comprehensive read. Geary begins with the linguistic manifestations, across many languages, before leading into the findings of those conducting research into the origins and uses of metaphor.

But don't let my sterile review mislead you: Geary is an
This book describes the psychology behind using metaphors for areas of our life, such as advertisements, science, stockmarket, innovation and politics. There is also a chapter on Aspergers and metaphors.

There were lots of examples from research as well as techniques that use metaphors, for instance in deciding a marketing campaign, or in a form of psychotherapy.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I am interested in words in general: where do they comes from (yes, that etymology bit), how do people use th
This book is interesting, but for me, much too detailed. Geary educated me, and made his points in the first two chapters. Also it seemed like as the book went on, he used more and more words that are not in my context. But, the book did cause me to think differently about metaphors. Who am I kidding, I never thought about them before. Anyway, I have purposefully begun to pay attention to the verbiage in magazines, TV, and movies, and am more acutely aware of how metaphors influence our emotions ...more
Mike Tarasovic
I read this book for a long-distance family book club that the Tarasovic-Talbots are currently beta testing. I think it would have been a great book to read if you were in daily contact with another person reading it, because it's peppered with interesting ideas that might spark some good discussion between co-readers. Two weeks after finishing it, though, I'm struggling to remember a single one of those ideas, and kind of come away with the notion that this book had one major point (Everything ...more
This book is a good initiation into current thinking on metaphor. Although it does consider nearly everything to be metaphor, it also taps true contributions on metaphor from important writers, artists, and scientists. It shows how metaphor permeates our lives and helps to make the inexplicable familiar, to help us navigate the unknown, and to enrich - and beautify - our learning. It also operationalizes metaphor as a problem-solving tool, for the whole range of thinkable problems.
I have always tended to think of metaphors as statements like “ran like the wind” or “raven haired”; statements that are obvious comparisons. Geary points out that metaphor goes far deeper in our language; stocks ‘climb’ despite not having limbs, time races by or crawls, a person or situation can be a ticking time bomb while having nothing to do with actual explosives. Metaphor is so ingrained in humans that we aren’t even aware of it. Metaphors help explain the world to us; new things are expla ...more
David C
(warning: this is not a review per se, so much as a reaction)

I loved this book but It's far from perfect. It had a powerful impact on me personally, but for what it leaves out as much as what it includes. I'm fascinated by the gulf between religious and non-religious thinking (I happen to be non-religious if it matters to you) and it seems to me that what this book has to offer is essentially an explanation of that gulf. And yet it never mentions religion once.

The premise is in the subtitle; ho
Another great book about metaphor. I liked it so much that I bought it for myself.
Scott Smithson
The word 'metaphor' brings to mind images of grumpy English teachers reciting the formula that 'like' is a metaphor and 'as' is a simile. As a child I had always felt a bit mystified by this explanation, feeling that the concept of metaphor was elusive, inexplicable, mired in a convoluted explanation that everyone else understood.

Metaphor, however, is more than a literary device. It permeates our daily lives. We speak in parable. Businesspeople talk about 'right sizing', people are 'resources'.
The subtitle says it all: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World.

"Reality is a cliché from which we escape by metaphor." — Wallace Stevens

A very good book for poets, but for anyone, really. Of course metaphor is familiar to everyone as a literary device — describing one thing in terms of another — but as Geary makes clear, it's the primary way that we learn about the world. It's the bridge between the known and the unknown. How else can we understand something new
Fascinating look at how metaphor not only permeates our language, but affects our ability to understand our world. Metaphor, as it is studied here, goes beyond the literary device with which are all familiar. It describes an important brain function which enables us to make sense of the world by connecting the unfamiliar to the familiar.

Geary begins with language, how we invent new words using old ones, or give new meanings to old words, and how often we use metaphor (on average, one metaphor in
Rebecca Schwarz
I love reading about language and how our brains work, so this was an interesting and worthy read. I had not realized how completely metaphors permeate everything around us. His discussions about how metaphor is a necessary tool when it comes to understanding truly novel ideas and concepts.

The book did sag a little in the middle. There were too many repetitive accounts of various psychological studies when his point was already made, but overall the book was quite interesting. Reading it has he
Lou Prosperi
An interesting book about a fascinating subject. It's easy to lose sight of how pervasive metaphors are in our lives (like in this very sentence, for instance) and this book helps illustrate the vast role that metaphor plays in how we see the world and communicate with each other.

After reading this book, your view of the ways in which language shapes us will almost certainly change.

I originally was interested in this book for its potential to help me understand the role that metaphor can play in
I was thinking that this would be more about metaphor from a language and literary standpoint, and although the books deals with those aspects, it has much more to do with the way that metaphor shapes the very way we think. All communication, it seems, involves metaphor. It's very difficult to say or do anything without using it. Sometimes, I found the number of cited psychological studies a bit overwhelming -- they tended to run together. Which says more about me than the author.

Several authors
Special K
I enjoyed this book more for some of the ideas it sparked, rather than as a read on its own. For instance: the idea that most of language is composed of "dead" metaphors, the kind of metaphors we don't recognize anymore (like my use of "sparked" in the opening sentence of this review). This is a helpful way for a non-poetry person like me to look at poetry. Good poetry is living metaphors, the kind of comparisons that are jarring enough to make us notice them, to point to a kinship between two u ...more
A fascinating book on metaphors. Metaphors are not just amusing wordplays. Geary convincingly argues that metaphors shape our worldview and are essential to how we think, feel, perceive, and communicate.

While metaphors are used in all language, Geary unfortunately doesn't say anything about the relative prevalence of metaphors in different languages. Knowing Persian and English, I've always been struck by how much more common metaphors are in Persian – and I don't know why it is so and what it
Easily one of the best pieces of non-fiction I've read in the past year. Elegant and compelling, the book looks long and hard at how, where, and why metaphors operate. Geary, without overstaying his welcome, expands the seemingly small topic of comparative language into something far larger. He addresses, in turn, metaphor's relationship to thought, etymology, money, the mind, advertising, the brain, the body, politics, pleasure, children, science, parables/proverbs, innovation, and psychology. ...more
Kate Woods Walker
The metaphor in philosophy. Brain research. Evolutionary theory. Linguistics. Literature. Religious parable. Advertising. Politics. Finance. Quantum theory. It's all here--and it's all fascinating, engaging and accessible, thanks to James Geary's deft writing style. What a good book!

The only quarrel I had with this compact and jam-packed nonfiction treat was the somewhat clunky title. Had I not been on a linguistics kick recently, I would have rejected this book based on title alone. Happily, I
Began this months ago but could not get into it. Picked it up again recently and this time it clicked. I wonder if that was because I have been watching the National Geographic channel series Brain Games and many of the points made in this book were covered in that series. Far from a book on writing/rhetoric/literary aspects of metaphor, this was a book about the brain and thought processes. I've always been a big fan of "connections" and that's what this book was about- we understand metaphor ...more
Kristen Page
Keep your tail feathers fluffy!
A friend once said to me, "People who speak in metaphors can shampoo my crotch," a phrase that, I believe, is itself a metaphor...amiright?

In any case...Geary's book is an incredibly readable examination of the metaphors that permeate our world, how our senses and our minds are inextricably linked by metaphor, and why living in a literal world is, in fact, an impossibility. This book is pretty short (yay!), and includes loads of psychological case study references, which I loved - science! I fe
An interesting examination that suffers on two levels: it is heavy-handed in style and too broad in its key term definition. There was no need for an endless pointing out of the text's own metaphorical use, and there was a real need for a more strict definition of the word "metaphor". That being said, there were lovely etymological insights (which I have already forgotten) and I for one was very pleased to learn about Clean Language Therapy. Sounds brilliant, and I plan to examine/engage with it ...more
Carrie Newman turner
Ahhh...metaphor. How you are woven into our every thought. Our brains are constantly making comparisons between known and unknown in order to find a pattern. The book suggests that metaphor is at the heart of our thinking, and makes a pretty strong case for it. It's broken down into economics, education, politics, advertising, etc to show the reader how prevalent metaphor is in our everyday world.

Fascinating stuff. I'm a geek about how the brain works, so this book is right up my alley!
Chris Lynch
Packed with interesting research about metaphors, and well-referenced, but, organised as it is into chapters such as "metaphors and the body", "metaphors and politics", and "metaphors and pleasure", it lacks a strong sense of development. The main message was that metaphors are everywhere, and essential to language.

A good read for anyone with an interest in language, and plenty to follow up on for anyone wanting to know more about how to create strong metaphors.
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James Geary is the author of the New York Times best-selling The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism and Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists, both of which celebrate the lively, witty, and provocative art of the short, philosophical sayings known as aphorisms. I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World (Harper), Geary's latest book ...more
More about James Geary...
The World in a Phrase: A History of Aphorisms Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists We Are What We Think The Body Electric: An Anatomy of the New Bionic Senses

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