December 14th, 2008

Pataphorically speaking

From wikipedia:

The pataphor is a term coined by writer and musician Pablo Lopez (“Paul Avion”), for an unusually extended metaphor based on Alfred Jarry’s “science” of ‘pataphysics. As Jarry claimed that ‘pataphysics existed “as far from metaphysics as metaphysics extends from regular reality,” a pataphor attempts to create a figure of speech that exists as far from metaphor as metaphor exists from non-figurative language. Whereas a metaphor is the comparison of a real object or event with a seemingly unrelated subject in order to emphasize the similarities between the two, the pataphor uses the newly created metaphorical similarity as a reality with which to base itself. In going beyond mere ornamentation of the original idea, the pataphor seeks to describe a new and separate world, in which an idea or aspect has taken on a life of its own.

Like ‘pataphysics itself, pataphors essentially describe two degrees of separation from reality (rather than merely one degree of separation, which is the world of metaphors and metaphysics). The pataphor may also be said to function as a critical tool, describing the world of “assumptions based on assumptions,” such as belief systems or rhetoric run amok. The following is an example.

Non-figurative

  • Tom and Alice stood side by side in the lunch line.

    Metaphor
  • Tom and Alice stood side by side in the lunch line, two pieces on a chessboard.

  • Pataphor

  • Tom took a step closer to Alice and made a date for Friday night, checkmating. Rudy was furious at losing to Margaret so easily and dumped the board on the rose-colored quilt, stomping downstairs.
  • Thus, the pataphor has created a world where the chessboard exists, including the characters who live in that world, entirely abandoning the original context.


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