Article published in:Mixing Metaphor
Edited by Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr.
[Metaphor in Language, Cognition, and Communication 6] 2016
► pp. 155–176
Chapter 8. The ‘dull roar’ and the ‘burning barbed wire pantyhose’
Complex metaphor in accounts of chronic pain
This chapter examines metaphors in a corpus of interviews with people experiencing chronic pain. An important communicative purpose for people experiencing chronic pain is to get others to acknowledge its reality and I suggest that the mixing of metaphors contributes to the communication of pain. Where the rhetorical purpose is to communicate a means of gaining control over pain such as therapy or medication, speakers tend to use repeated metaphors or elaborate and extended metaphors based on some type of conceptual blending. Metaphor mixing occurs where the speaker’s purpose is to emphasise the intensity of the embodied experience by representing the pain as out of control. The greater the semantic divergence of metaphor source domains, the more intense the embodied experience of pain, and the greater the agency of the pain rather than the speaker. Conversely, when a speaker is discussing aspects of pain that can be controlled – as when using medication or in therapy – he or she uses metaphors that are more semantically convergent such as repeated or extended metaphors. Therefore the greater the semantic convergence of metaphor vehicles, the more the speaker represents him or herself as in control of the pain. The emergence of a metaphor theme through use of complex metaphors therefore enhances the credibility of the lived experience of chronic pain and shows metaphor use to be purposeful.
Published online: 18 March 2016