Look for common English metaphors to help you understand new phrases

In the last phrase this week, "The video's pretty choppy on my end," I explain that English speakers think of a telephone or online conversation as an imaginary string between two people. So you can talk about "my end" or "your end" of a conversation, just like you can talk about the two "ends" of a piece of string. This metaphor also explains some other phrases that we use to talk about conversations. For example:

  • If someone disconnects the conversation, like when you're speaking on a pay phone and you run out of money, you say that the call "got cut".
  • When you're trying to get some kind of information or response from someone, you "put out a call" to them, just like you "put out" a fishing line to catch a fish.

There are other metaphors in English that can help you understand several different phrases about a certain topic:

  • We think of time as a kind of money. You "spend time" with people who you enjoy being with. You "save time" by doing things quickly and efficiently. You "invest time" in doing something that seems like it will be useful in the future. And, of course, there's the saying "Time is money" which people often use in business.
  • We think of new ideas as babies. A person can "give birth to" a new idea. When you're discussing history, you call the person who created a great idea "the father of ___". For example, Sigmund Freud is called "the father of modern Psychology". (Unfortunately, women are out of luck; we don't call women "the mother of" an idea).
     And you can also call an idea "the brainchild" of the person who first thought it up.
  • Men often compare dating to sports. "Getting to first base" means kissing someone. (I'll let you research what the other bases mean on your own.) If a guy thinks that he can get a girl to go out with him, he can say that he "has a shot" with her. And sleeping with someone is called "scoring". Peole even call dating "the game" or "the dating game".

There are a lot more common English metaphors like these. Can you think of any that you've noticed? Are the same metaphors used in your native language?

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