Piano Sonata for four-armed monster. Other Movement.
The Magic of Metaphor
or: why we never say what we mean, nor mean what we say; and where the eff is the magic in that?

The bait is the means to get the fish where you want it,
catch the fish and you forget the bait.

The snare is the means to get the rabbit where you want it,
catch the rabbit and forget the snare.

Words are the means to get the idea where you want it,
catch on to the idea and you forget about the words.

Where shall I find a man who forgets about words,
and have a word with him?

Chuang Tzu

Let's face it, baby: we perceive the world in metaphors. Apart from few sensory phenomena we experience directly, like strong pain and orgasm, it's all packed in language. See the beginning of this paragraph: we "face" something, turn our face towards it, use a visual metaphor to express an intellectual activity. To say nothing about the use of "baby" - any chance of a baby reading thins? As for the aformentioned exceptions: if you'd have to describe what an orgasm is, you'd be able to, some way or the other, I'm sure (every attempt is welcome). But the moment you feel it, well, you feel it. It may even be the same with other sensory experiences, like taste and smell, but you can and will much sooner turn them into language - and thus, into metaphor. Describe the taste of an apple. You'll use words like fresh, juicy, maybe even colours like green. No direct word for it except "apple aroma", all metaphors. And when we come to thinking, it's all metaphors again. So, the way we choose our metaphors shapes the way we perceive our world. By changing our set of metaphors, we change the world. If that isn't magic!
One of the most compelling snares is the use of the term metaphor to describe a correspondence between what the users see on the screen and how they should think about what they are manipulating ... There are clear connotations to the stage, theatrics, magic; all of which give much stronger hints as to the direction to be followed. For example, the screen as 'paper to be marked on' is a metaphor that suggests pencils, brushes, and typewriting....Should we transfer the paper metaphor so perfectly that the screen is as hard as paper to erase and change? Clearly not. If it is to be like magical paper, then it is the magical part that is all important...
Alan Kay, "User Interface: A Personal View"
Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.
Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, political analyst. "Language and Freedom," lecture, Jan. 1970, delivered at Loyola University, Chicago
Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.
Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), German philosopher. "Building Dwelling Thinking," lecture, 5 Aug. 1951

"The Tungus tribesmen of Siberia say that when the shaman goes into his trance and raves incoherent syllables, he learns the entire language of Nature."

"The Language of Nature."

"Yes, sir. The Sukuma people of Africa say that the language is kinaturu, the tongue of the ancestors of all magicians, who are thought to have descended from one particular tribe."

"What causes it?"

"If mystical explanations are ruled out, then it seems that glossolalia comes from structures buried deep within the brain, common to all people."

from "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson

Syntax and vocabulary are overwhelming constraints-the rules that run us. Language is using us to talk-we think we're using the language, but language is doing the thinking, we're its slavish agents.
Harry Mathews (b. 1930), U.S. novelist. City Limits (London, 26 May 1988).


The word of man is the most durable of all material.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), German philosopher. Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. 2, ch. 25, sct. 298 (1851)

Language is a part of our organism and no less complicated than it.
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), Austrian philosopher. Notebooks 1914-1916, entry for 14 May 1915

10 Most Widely Spoken Languages:

1. Chinese (Mandarin) 1,070,000,000 speakers (est.)
2. English 508,000,000
3. Hindustani 497,000,000
4. Spanish 392,000,000
5. Russian 277,000,000
6. Arabic 246,000,000
7. Bengali 211,000,000
8. Portuguese 191,000,000
9. Malay-Indonesian 159,000,000
10. French 129,000,000

Based upon a 1998 survey. Additionally there are three other languages that are spoken by more than 100 million people each: German (128 million), Japanese (126 million), and Urdu (105 million).