Published In

Metaphor and Symbol

Document Type


Publication Date



Metaphor, Linguistic analysis (Linguistics), Symbolism


Both Lakoff and Johnson (1980) and Vervaeke and Kennedy (1996), in their critique of Lakoff and Johnson, drew narrowly from a broad range of reasonable interpretations of the metaphors they analyzed. Expanding the interpretations vitiates many of Vervaeke and Kennedy's criticisms, but it supports their call for an open interpretation of groups of metaphors and points toward a more complex elaboration of the theories put forth by Lakoff and Johnson. The results of applying this approach to "ARGUMENT IS WAR" suggest that war is not necessarily the primary conceptual metaphor for contentious argument, as Lakoff and Johnson claimed. Rather, there is a complex field of contentious interactions, ranging from simple discussions through contests to all-out war: Any and all of these can be and are used as metaphors for the others. When a word or phrase like "defend," "position," "maneuver," or "strategy" is used, there is no a priori way to determine whether the intended meaning is an athletic contest or a game of chess. Similar analyses are applied to other examples from the metaphor literature, and a modification of the basic idea of conceptual mapping is proposed, in which metaphors map cognitive responses onto prototypical situations rather than mapping 1 specific experience or concept onto another.


Author Accepted Manuscript of: L. David Ritchie, (2003) "Argument is war”, or, is it a game of chess? : multiple meanings in the analysis of implicit metaphors, Metaphor and Symbol 18:2, pages 125-146. Copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at

Persistent Identifier

Included in

Communication Commons