Today, I read an interesting article today by Shoba Narayan, a journalist, columnist, content creator and author of four books. She has won a James Beard award and a Pulitzer Fellowship. Under the subtitle, “Metaphors that Reflect Culture“, I ponder upon her sentiments.
“Take a common metaphor in Tamil, often used to describe a person who went from rags to riches, and remains of good, even noble character: He is like a lotus flower that grows in slush. The lotus is the purest of flowers in Indian culture, so what is implied here is not just beauty, but character. In other words, this particular metaphor cannot apply to robber barons, even if they rose from rags to riches, because the assumption is that they used devious means to gain their wealth and status.”
One suggestion she gives to expand linguistic imagination is to consider phrases from foreign poems. She mentioned Pablo Neruda as an example,
“Infinitos suenos….suenos solitarios….” What did it mean? I wasn’t sure. But my brain had put together the phrase as “infinitos solitarios,” or infinite solitude, sparking in me a certain kind of pathos. Infinite solitude conjured up mountains, midnight, defeat in love, death, the depths of the ocean. All these images were useful; they enriched the mood of my writing.