UX Book Reviews

Metaphors we live by – George Lakoff

This month’s book made it to the reading list for this year’s challenge because it was highly recommended by some of my colleagues. This is another ‘classic’ book, as it was firstly published in 1981 (and incidentally is as old as I am) but it is astonishingly ‘current’ and fresh. Incidentally, it is also very well cited- according to Google scholar, this book has a staggering 34000 citations!


In this updated edition of Lakoff and Johnson’s influential book, the authors supply an afterword surveying how their theory of metaphor has developed within the cognitive sciences to become central to the contemporary understanding of how we think and how we express our thoughts in language.

Metaphors have entailments through which they highlight and make coherent certain aspects of our experience

I have always been fascinated by the power of metaphors- and how they pervade our normal conceptual system to make us understand concepts and ideas that are abstract or not clearly delineated in our experience. The authors make a very convincing argument  that ‘even our deepest and most abiding concepts like time, events, causation, morality and mind itself’ are understood and reasoned by metaphors. To strengthen this argument, there are number of examples of metaphors throughout the book that have been drawn from everyday life to highlight the important role of metaphors in the way we conceptualise our experience and the way we express ourselves through language.

If you look in a dictionary under ‘love’ you find entries that mention affection, fondness, devotion, infatuation and even sexual desire but there is no mention of the way in which we comprehend love by means of metaphors, such as LOVE IS A JOURNEY, LOVE IS MADNESS, LOVE IS WAR.

I have to admit I didn’t instantly ‘click’ with this book- there are books that you can click with straight away and there are some other that you need to continuously make and effort and ‘stick’ at it. This book was the latter. The reason for this was purely based on the language and style of it- it is very academic- even though the key concepts are expressed concisely, the language feels a bit ‘heavy’.  If you enjoy philosophy and cognitive science or perhaps have a keen interest in linguistics, then you will love this book.    

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