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Stories of Figures of Speech

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From the very beginning, inside and outside Africa, the origins of all Languages were highly figurative, reflecting excited imaginations and passions which made them naturally picturesque. Despite their aging process, those avoiding having undergone a lifeless cliché fate while being passed down from one generation to another became Proverbs and Figures of Speech (FOS), like those in Fables. Since Africans were present on Earth scores of millennia before other peoples and since Africa is the home of Animal Tales, perhaps the first literary forms concerned predators/prey in humans/animals. The greatest FOS "literary inventor" of all times is the still famous Lokman (i.e. Aesop), enslaved in Greece. The Greeks, not knowing his real name, called him Ethiop or Aethiops because of his dark skin and because they falsely believed all dark-skinned people came from Ethiopia, including those who established Egypt. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus said Aesop lived in the 6th century BC and was a deformed Slave of Iadmon, the Thracian. Being a witty, wise, but profane talker, it was through these gifts that Aesop apparently incurred such wrath of the priests as to be thrown over a precipice at Delphi. While in prison, Socrates (469-399 BC)--whom I believe was an African--is said to have rewritten as many of Aesop's moral lessons as he remembered. Europeans have continually tried to claim Aesop as being of White Greek or Asian origin (Bailey, Word Stories Surrounding African American Slavery). Nevertheless, the world has been forever enriched by Aesop’s Fables--short, elementary, narrative stories about animals, as characters, which have ever since influenced people's morals around the world (Bailey, Echoes). For example, many of his and other African fables were used by Enslaved Africans in fashioning their folktales. In Aesop’s fable of “The Fox and The Grapes,” besides accounting for how the fox acted, the Allegory message behind the obvious story is that people tend to scoff at what they cannot attain.

Meanwhile, the young/old, the barbarous/civilized in all cultures employed FOS unconsciously in the sense of "ornaments of speech"--like embroidery which improves the appearance of linen but adds nothing to its usefulness. Their natural arts switch occurred when Rhetoricians/Grammarians regarded them as abstract departures from natural, ordinary forms of speech and were, instead, 'foreigners.' To illustrate, the 15th century English word "Metaphor"(Greek, meta, beyond or "over" + pherein, to bring, bear, carry, 'to transfer') originally meant merely carrying a burden from one place to another; carrying (an object) beyond another or put behind; and liken one to another as if it were that other: "He was a lion in persistence." A Metaphor, said Plato, is translating a term from one language to another so as to change the receiving word to a new sense. Such a transference in the meaning of words--from its proper signification to another--is like a change from a caterpillar into a butterfly within a cocoon. The 'carrying across' of meanings or concepts from one place to another is done by Symbols. Secular Metaphors are a system of images permitting one to say a great deal in a few words as well as prepare the mind for the creative process to amplify an Idea or Reflection with a unique input that "makes it mine." Rather than contributing to cognitive meaning, they lend it color, vividness, emotional impact as well as create a lively association or similarity between one Thing and an unlike other Thing--speaking of the one as if it were the other. They also omit all signs (as, like) of the comparison made but suggest relationships by an imaginary identity. An example of comparing two things not of the same class or kind is: "All the world's a stage." Note the two unlike objects are being compared by identification or by substitution of one for the other. As terms or phrases applied to something to which there is no literal applicability, they still suggest a resemblance--e.g. 'moonlight sleeping on a river bank' or describing the moon as a "piece of cheese"--while evoking recalled images that strengthen or enlarge upon the intended meaning.

Thoughtful Metaphors mentally stir 2 or more single references, sharing together something in common: a rose is a frequent metaphor for the many meanings of love. "Foot" becomes a metaphor when it refers to the foot of a man and the foot of the mountain. Such relational categories make for one category. Hence, Metaphors' imaginative substitutions bridge and unify the unlike.


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