After reading the article “Thinking literally’, I was tempted to look back at my own experiences to search for occasions when metaphors affected my way of thinking. For an instance, the Korean metaphor for ‘heading towards the wrong direction’ is ‘dropping into Sam-Chun estuary’ (삼천포로 빠진다) and English metaphor for that is “off the track”. Once when my essay strayed from the topic, my English teacher told me that I was going off the track. This implied certain possibility of my essay ‘coming back to the track’ again which encouraged me to edit it a few more times. However, when I told this to my mother, the reply was: “See, your essay is dropping into Sam-Chun estuary.”For a car which went off the track, it’s easier for it to change the direction and go on the track again; however if the car was to drop into the estuary, it seems hardly possible to get out again. Hence, I felt more depressed by what my mother have told me even though it meant the same thing as what my teacher had suggested.
Also, the metaphorical relation of mood and senses intrigued me. I’ve once heard that several coffee and ice cream franchises like Starbucks and Coldstone intentionally make their shop’s temperature a degree or two lower and place hard, wooden chairs in order to make customers leave faster. Also, Ivy League school’s study room like Brown University has hard, wooden furniture in order to keep students awake.
There are lots of similarities between various languages’ metaphors: in general, ‘warmth’ means friendliness and ‘coldness’ means rigidity. However, the minute difference of their expression changes the degree of meaning and creates difference in understanding. At North Korea where famine is prevalent, the proverb for considerate action is ‘Eat your crab with its legs off, even if it’s cooked(구운 게도 다리를
떼고 먹으라),’ whereas the proverb for relatively wealthy South Korea is ‘Tap the bridge before passing even if it’s made of rock(돌다리도 두드려보고 건너라).’ The language we use is same, but the way we express it varies according to the surrounding condition.
Therefore, I believe that the languages doesn’t necessarily change our way of thinking, but rather that different environment affects the linguistic expressions and creates difference in understanding.