knig's Reviews > I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World

I is an Other by James Geary
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's review
Feb 29, 2012

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bookshelves: 2012, blancmange-of-ideas

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, of which I am now a proud owner.

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It yields only two cups of coffee every TWELVE hours, but I HAD to have it, even though I’d never heard of it before. We are all doomed stooges of advertising.

Synesthetic metaphors next. To Daniel Tammet ‘Five is a clap of thunder’. Well, a thunder of claps to you, chappy, I thought, but thats not how MY brain works. Except, of course, it IS! I looked at this:


Which one is bouba and which one is kiki in the images above?

Well, I am pleased to report my answer is in the 98% percentile, YAAAY, (my highest test score ever). Which makes me apparently, completely, and utterly mediocre: one of masses. Still, though, 98%! I’m not letting anyone take that away from me.

The Stroop effect: Here, I am a massive failure, so all is SNAFU then. The idea is to name the colour of the word.


Redemption arrives finally with the purely linguistic synesthetic metaphors. Most people apparently find it easier to cope with a ‘fragrant purple’ rather than a ‘purpled fragrance’ but not I. I am definitely a purpled fragrance kind of girl.

An innocuous phrase: ‘Next Wednesday’s meeting has been moved forward two days’. So. Monday or Friday? Ask enough people and see a correlation: if they are moving (i.e. in motion when they answer) then its Friday. If they are stationary: Monday. Space-time continuum metaphors at work.

Hold a hot cup of coffee in your hands, and the person in front tends to look warm and niceish. Clutch an icy drink and your companion is suddenly cold and heartless.

Look up and say a number. Look down and say a number. Your higher number will be when you were looking up.

Arbitrary coherence concept: good one, must apply at work.

Ooops, whats that? I do believe my first Hourglass has FINALLY percolated. (well in a sense: its a cold brew system). Must see what all the bruhahaha is about now. Whilst thinking about my favourite metaphor in this book: Thomas Beecham’s harpsichord ensemble apparently sounds

like two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof.

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