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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