Screenshot: Mapping Metaphors
Screenshot: Mapping Metaphors

Massive Digital Map Tracks Metaphors in Four Million Pieces of Lexical Data

Screenshot: Mapping Metaphors
Screenshot: Mapping Metaphors

Researchers at the University of Glasgow's School of Critical Studies have spent the past three years mapping more than 14,000 metaphorical connections sourced from 4 million pieces of lexical data. Now, you can browse the results. The examples, as well as the multi-level categories that they're divided up into, are pulled from the Historical Thesaurus of English, which dates back to the 700s CE.

Dr. Wendy Anderson, the project’s principal investigator, was interested primarily in how metaphors allow our language to grow and how they reflect the way we internalize the world. "This helps us to see how our language shapes our understanding—the connections we make between different areas of meaning in English show, to some extent, how we mentally structure our world. Over the past 30 years, it has become clear that metaphor is not simply a literary phenomenon; metaphorical thinking underlies the way we make sense of the world conceptually. It governs how we think and how we talk about our day-to-day lives," she told The Guardian.

Although the flowery comparisons in Shakespearean prose are beautiful, it's the more prevalent examples that catch on—like a "healthy economy" or to "spin a yarn"—that are illuminative of how our minds conceive of intangible concepts.

The interface isn't the easiest to get a handle on. For example, clicking around will show you that there are six strong metaphor connections between the categories within "Armed Hostility" and "Emotion," but in order to see specifics you have to make use of the "Search" function.

Right now, the search function only includes about a quarter of the total connections, but the researchers are constantly adding more. And if you're more interested in the early history of metaphor you can look forward to the launch of a parallel Metaphor Map for data from Old English, used prior to 1150 CE, in August.

Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

Here's the Right Way to Pronounce Kitchenware Brand Le Creuset

If you were never quite sure how to pronounce the name of beloved French kitchenware brand Le Creuset, don't fret: For the longest time, southern chef, author, and PBS personality Vivian Howard wasn't sure either.

In this video from Le Creuset, shared by Food & Wine, Howard prepares to sear some meat in her bright orange Le Creuset pot and explains, "For the longest time I had such a crush on them but I could never verbalize it because I didn’t know how to say it and I was so afraid of sounding like a big old redneck." Listen closely as she demonstrates the official, Le Creuset-endorsed pronunciation at 0:51.

Le Creuset is known for its colorful, cast-iron cookware, which is revered by pro chefs and home cooks everywhere. The company first introduced their durable pots to the world in 1925. Especially popular are their Dutch ovens, which are thick cast-iron pots that have been around since the 18th century and are used for slow-cooking dishes like roasts, stews, and casseroles.

[h/t Food & Wine]


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