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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XXIX, No. 1, March 1973

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NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XXIX, No. 1, March, 1973

THE METAPHOR IN AMERICAN FOLK SPEECH
by James E. Spears

ALMOST BASIC it seems, to the vocabulary of the American folk speaker is the poetic metaphor. Usage of the folk metaphor is both profuse and widespread geographically in American English. Though it may vary from area to area in comparative composition, it most assuredly finds a place in the social dialect range of folk speech.

From a linguistic point of view the folk metaphor is of historical significance in the English language, dating from the Anglo- Saxon times. As a matter of fact, folk metaphors frequently referred to as Anglo-Saxon metaphors; however, the term is somewhat misleading in that it does not encompass a number of recent and contemporary coinages and thus it will not be used in this paper. A goodly number of remnant and fossilized Anglo-Saxon forms are, however, yet observed in American English. Preserved in folk speech and in the annals of literature, both English and American, the folk poetic metaphor remains, and is truly, a legitimate element of the English language.

Aside from the fact that the poetic metaphor is poetic in nature, it serves a practical purpose in folk speech: it communicates both precisely and colorfully. Its resultant poetic imagery runs the gamut from visual to thermal. Most important is the fact that folk metaphors are pungent and clear to the speakers who use them....


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