Law's Metaphors: Introduction

Published date01 March 2016
Date01 March 2016
ISSN: 0263-323X, pp. 1±7
Law's Metaphors: Introduction
David Gurnham*
Having only recently begun to address the subject of metaphor directly in my
own work,
it struck me that a collection of new essays exploring how
metaphors shape notions of law and justice would be a timely contribution to
interdisciplinary legal studies. For me, part of the mysterious appeal of
metaphor is that, while technically understood to be a description that is
figurative rather than literal (and hence a description of one thing in terms of
something else), it also exceeds this definition, operating somewhere
between the literal and the figurative. This has to do with its etymological
roots in the Greek metaphora (a transfer, or a carrying over) and from meta-
pherein (over, across + to carry, bear).
In attempting to define metaphor in
literal terms therefore, we are immediately surrounded by images that evoke
a sense of meaning in motion, slippery, and on the move. Metaphor is ... a
boat, a ferry, a bridge, carrying a freight of meaning between one conceptual
shore and another.
It should be no surprise to find that these mental images come to mind
readily, since as has been observed elsewhere, metaphors disguise them-
selves as such and embed themselves deeply within language by substituting
something else rather than merely offering a comparison. We might say that
language is thus inherently metaphorical, or to put it another way, the literal
and the metaphoric are not separate from each other, since what we might
*School of Law, University of Southampton, University Road, Southampton
SO17 1BJ, England
Grateful thanks to the Journal for financially supporting the `Law's Metaphors' seminar
at Southampton in September 2015 and to the SLSA for supplying the larger part of the
funds for that event; also, to the many friends and colleagues who assisted in reviewing
the articles; finally, to the scholars who contributed the articles.
1 D. Gurnham, Crime, Desire and Law's Unconscious: Law, Literature and Culture
(2014) ch. 4.
2 R.K. Barnhart (ed.), Chambers Dictionary of Etymology (1999).
ß2016 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2016 Cardiff University Law School

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