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A research article in English on the use of metaphors in translation particularly Italian and English. The Italian version was presented as an MA thesis.

The Use of Metaphors
Michael J McCann

Table of Contents

Introduction 6
Definition of the metaphor 6
Use of metaphors 6
Refutation 7
Etymology and structure 7
Historical aspect 7
Argumentative distribution of the concept 8
Explicit metaphors 10
Examples of explicit metaphors 10
Explicit linguistic requirement 11
Implicit metaphors 12
Implicit linguistic requirement 12
Translation osmosis 12
Intra-rhetorical metaphors 14
Examples of infra-rhetorical metaphors (5-76) 14
Refutation 20
Extra-rhetorical metaphors 21
Text reprise 21
Visual metaphor(s) 22
Therapeutic metaphors 22
Radical or root metaphors 23
Examples of extra-rhetorical metaphors (101-159) 24
Conceptual metaphors 24
Headings 29
Close proximity of metaphors 29
Explicit cognitive metaphors 30
Noun and verbal cognitive forms of metaphors 32
Translation strategy and tactic 34
Levels of cognition 39
First level of transference 39
Second level of transference 39
Third level of transference 40
Fourth level of transference 40
Fifth level of transference 40
Research aims 42
First objective of this research 42
Second objective of this research 43
Third objective of this research 46
Conclusions 55
Bibliography 56
Dictionaries 56
Sitography 56

Definition of the metaphor

“Figura retorica per la quale si esprime sulla base di una similitudine, una cosa diversa da quella nominata trasferendo il concetto che questa esprime al di fuori del suo del suo significato reale”.(Garzanti)

While this Garzanti definition is adequate, the Imperial Dictionary is more specific in its definition of a metaphor:

“... a comparison is implied, though not formally expressed; a simile without any word expressing comparison”.

There is here an importance sequence. The metaphor is, first of all, composed of two concepts; then it becomes a verbal expression which is sometimes referred to as ‘lexical metaphor’, and then it becomes frequently, but not necessarily, a written phrase or sentence. In this, we are in agreement with researchers of metaphor such as Lakoff and Johnson that the metaphor is essentially conceptual and, for them, is based on some form of experience: “The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another”. By understanding, we mean the ability to comprehend, to perceive by way of insight or to make a judgement with regards to some situation. It is a mental and an interior process activated by the initial input of our senses. By experience, we mean the practical sensory observation of events initially on the outside of our person which leave within us an impression or an aspect of knowledge.

Use of metaphors

In our ConocoPhillips text — the basic text of this research — the use of metaphor is based on sources or vehicles — to use the linguistic expression — which we know and recognise such as the human person, farming, war, environment, and a multitude of other conceptual domains.

The use of metaphor is based on what some call pattern recognition. As I.A. Richards says:
“In the simplest formulation, when we use a metaphor we have two thoughts of different things active together and supported by a single word, or phrase, whose meaning is a resultant of their interaction.”

We must, however, make a distinction at this point between the ConocoPhillips whose 2008 Annual Report we are using as a basic text, as a legal entity with a legal personality and structure, set up as conglomerate and international company with commercial aims, and the ConocoPhillips as a personified agent achieving those objectives. The first context is no concern of this research in matters of comment and analysis; the second context most definitely is and, specifically in our case, by ConocoPhillips as a personified agent in the 2008 Annual Report achieving its aims as a company.


The metaphor is never introduced by an adjective such as ‘similar’, preposition such as ‘to’ or by a conjunction such as ‘like’ or ‘as’. Where such occurs, the more explicit figure of speech is a called a simile. This figure of speech is also used extensively in our basic text.

Etymology and structure

The etymology of the word metaphor some from the Greek words ‘over’, and 'to carry’. Metaphor implies transference of an aspect of one concept to another concept, thus creating a mental expression, statement or judgement.

The first part of the metaphor is the unfamiliar or less familiar item, sometimes called the ‘tenor’, basically equivalent in cognitive linguistics to the ‘target’. The more familiar item is called the ‘vehicle’ or in cognitive linguistics the ‘source’. The essential condition of the metaphor, the sine qua non, is the transference of one or more characteristics of the source concept to the target concept.

In the previous two examples, we have the classic aspect of the metaphor where one aspect, but not all aspects, of the vehicle is attributed to the tenor.

Historical aspect

History does not tell us when metaphor was first used quite simply because metaphor is first and foremost a cognitive process of understanding, and it is very much, in second place, a rhetorical process of expression. We shall examine both of these statements in detail later on. However, what we do know is that metaphor has been with humanity from the earliest days of recorded history.

In a text from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, dated around 2,700 BC, the author says:
“My friend, the swift mule,
fleet wild ass of the mountain,
panther of the wilderness

fought the Bull of Heaven
and killed it.”

What is clear however is that through the literature of the ages, ‘figures’ are to be found constantly in texts as part of the surface of prose, the so-called ‘figures of ornament’ or stylistic elements. These elements were then enhanced by the ‘figures of argument’ or figures of speech such as metaphor. “The metaphor is here an occasion for and an instrument of thought, not a substitute ... A metaphor, finally, emphasises certain respects in which the subject is to be compared with the modifier; in particular, it leaves out the other respects”.

Please note that in this document, we shall not consider at all the other species of metaphor, namely antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy, and simile, and the most modern of all — the web-related computer interface metaphor — though in passing we shall refer to the modern understanding of the computer cognitive metaphor.

Argumentative distribution of the concept

The metaphorical concept depends on an ability to understand and on an understanding of the cognitive process itself. If we do not understand the target of our metaphor, it will escape an efficacious use of the cognitive process which is essential to the metaphor, its expression and its comprehension. Were we to say “ConocoPhillips is a leading actor in the sector”, knowing what an actor is, but not knowing what ConocoPhillips is, the metaphor would be lost on us. We might mistakenly think that ConocoPhillips was a person, some type of film star or entertainer, etc. We would know from our own life experience that an actor has many talents such as a capacity for performance, for imitation, for stealing the limelight, for communication with an audience, etc.

However, were we not to know what ConocoPhillips does or is, we cannot transfer across mentally those aspects of “actor” — the linguistic ‘source’ to the ‘target’ of our thought process — ConocoPhillips. We must know and understand the target for the metaphor to succeed both cognitively and linguistically. The metaphor therefore must fit the context as a concept of both the source and target to be successful. However, any potential mistake of recognition is avoided as the authors of the Annual Report state in the first line of text “ConocoPhillips is an internation, integrated energy company”.

The cognitive process in using a metaphor depends on this basic understanding and fundamentally on an experience of the world of which we know, however imperfectly, and on the linguistic terms, which we use. In this, we are in agreement with Lakoff and Johnson when they say “In actuality, we feel that no metaphor can ever be comprehended or even adequately represent independently of it experiential basis”.

Explicit metaphors

For any metaphor to be understood, first of all, the person must understand or grasp an idea or concept. The person must also know of a second concept or an experience. Finally, there comes the expression of the direct comparison usually with the verb ‘to be’ in its various conjugated forms. This is the simplest form of explicit metaphor as we find in the following example taken from our chosen text.

The examples of metaphor, which we shall give are from the basic source document of this research — the 2008 Consolidated Accounts of ConocoPhillips, the international petroleum conglomerate. The examination of the metaphors and metaphorical forms in that set of annual accounts the basis of this research. Such extracted examples will attempt to highlight the levels of metaphor, the nature and types of the metaphor, their purpose and the difficulties presented to their translator.
Examples of explicit metaphors

1 p.1 These (statements) are made pursuant to “safe harbor” provisions ... Queste (dichiarazioni) si basano sulle disposizioni “safe harbor”
2 p.13 Operating excellence is the cornerstone of R&M’s strategy ... L’eccellenza operativa rappresenta la pietra angolare della strategia R&M ...

It is implied that ConocoPhillips is a ship on a journey seeking a “safe harbor”. The ship must overcome dangers and the environment so as to arrive safely. By metaphoric extension, ConocoPhillips must do likewise, i.e. overcome financial and trading dangers, overcome environmental problems and drilling conditions so as to produce results.

“Cornerstone” metaphors implying fundamental concepts without which something else could not exist, a form of sine qua non, are to be found in many languages, including our target language and is one of the metaphors in our basic text which match perfectly.

A further working of another metaphor then occurs as the attribute is transferred to ConocoPhillips. It becomes implicit when one of its concepts is used adjectivally or as a noun.

3 p.20 This year, we achieve one of the best safety records ... Quest’anno raggiungiamo uno dei migliori record in materia di sicurezza …

In example 1, the ConocoPhillips “ship” has arrived in its safe harbour achieving, as if this were a race, overcoming the difficulties of the weather or environment, and setting new records of safety.

In example 2, it is as if ConocoPhillips, the “runner” has run the race, has overcome opposition, obstacles and challengers to “win a prize” – the safety records. It is a nice combination of explicit “achievement” and implicit “safety” metaphors.

Again, Lakoff and Johnson continue in their explanation of the metaphor, “The concept is metaphorically structured, the activity is metaphorically structured, and consequently, the language is metaphorically structured”.9 The person making a comparison in the mind between two separate concepts or things finds that the two concepts have one or more aspects in common. A transference of this/these aspect(s) occurs directly. This is the essential condition for the metaphor to be a metaphor.

Explicit linguistic requirement

An extra-textual example such as “The lion is the king of the jungle” above makes sense and is an explicit metaphor. We may have an imperfect experiential knowledge of both jungles, kings and lions, but we have some knowledge of them, and so the metaphor does makes sense as we regard the lion as have more power, strength, etc than other jungle animals. This is the explicit linguistic requirement.

However, were we to say, “The lion is the negus of the jungle”, the source or vehicle of the metaphor would not make linguistic sense unless one was Ethiopian or spoke Amharic to know that negus is a king.

Similarly indeed to make sense of the tenor or target, in saying, “The singa is the king of the jungle”, one needs to speak Bahasa Indonesian to know that singa is a lion. Therefore, it is clear that we need both experiential and linguistic awareness for the metaphor to work.

Implicit metaphors

There are two ways of recognising or regarding an implicit metaphor.

The first method is the negative way, the so-called process of elimination, and simply means that if a metaphor is recognised which is NOT an explicit one, it is therefore by exclusion, an implicit one.

The second method requires a cognitive analysis either within or outside rhetoric to conclude that an attribute has been transferred from the vehicle/source to the tenor/target.

Implicit linguistic requirement

There is an implicit linguistic requirement in our cultural awareness within the cognitive process, and a further step is taken in the metaphoric process, when the implicit metaphor occurs. Were we to say and understand “The lion gave a truly royal roar”, we would have to already know extra-textually of a metaphor explicitly expressing the kingship of the lion, and the adjective, or other part of speech, in the example above is a suitable one to imply the metaphor.

Translation osmosis

We shall come later on to communicative linguistic metaphors which pass easily from one language to another as if by a mental and language osmosis which both the translator, a speaker of the target language will recognise. This occurs particularly with proverbs or sayings at a number of levels, and for texts such as ours. The translation may first of all be word for word — a straightforward and direct translation. Thus, “Total revenues and other income” can be rendered “Ricavi totali e altri redditi” without great problem respecting the grammatical rules of the target language. The translator may consider alternatives for “revenues”, depending on the financial nature of the business whose Balance Sheet or Profit and Loss Account is being translated. Depending on the subtleties of the financial text, terms such as “utili”, “proventi”, “ratei” may be considered and rejected for either noun above for one reason or another.

The translator may then find that a full word for word translation cannot be attempted and that part of the phrase or sentence has to be translated in a non-identical manner or indeed not at all. We see the example of “Depreciation, depletion and amortization” where the differences in meaning and definition between “depreciation” and “amortization” as the reduction of the “recorded” value of an asset over a predetermined period of time and the reduction of the “initial” value of the asset is very fine. The difficulty for the translator arises is that in the target language “ammortamento” covers both quite adequately, but the rules of literature even apply to financial reports in that the repetition of the same word in the same heading is now allowed. “Depletion” as the reduction of quantities or numbers referred to in a Balance Sheet again causes problems if translated as a concept separately from “ammortamento”.

It should therefore not come as a great surprise to the translator that many a metaphor finds a counterpart, though very frequently not entirely a direct or word for word translation, in the target language.
There are, of course, metaphors which do not translate well. It is consequently these latter communicative cognitive metaphors which produce particular difficulty for the translator.

4 p.1 Financial Highlights Dati di sintessi

This particular metaphor is quite interesting and will be commented upon and explained later on under cognitive metaphors in example 112.

In this regard, we can agree with the first two of the summarised conclusions of Lakoff and Johnson that “Metaphors are fundamentally conceptual in nature; metaphorical language is secondary” and that “Conceptual metaphors are grounded in everyday experience.”

The recorded presence of metaphor through the history of literature and of non-literary writings from the most primitive of languages to current spoken ones show its permanence as a figure of speech either written or verbal. Its ubiquity demonstrates its importance and its need as a means of communication which will be a proof in the latter part of this document when related to our chosen basic text.

Intra-rhetorical metaphors

In order to analyse the use of metaphors correctly, we must recognise that metaphor takes two forms: those within rhetoric and those outside rhetoric. Those within rhetoric are divided into, at least, five common forms, and into ten, non-common forms. Those within rhetoric are only peripheral to the work of this research and shall be mentioned in passing to give a sense of completeness to the task in hand. Those outside rhetoric fall into five categories of which two categories are of particular interest to us in this research.

The common forms of infra-rhetorical metaphor are absolute, classical, mixed, dead and extended, not all of which will be found even in the longest of texts.
The non-common forms of infra-rhetorical metaphor are active, complex, composite, epic, implicit, moribund, paralogical, synecdoche, submerged, and silent. Again, all of which would not be found normally in a single text.

Examples of infra-rhetorical metaphors (5-76)

The examples given, in continuation, are merely samples of the various types of metaphor used in the chosen text10 and in no way are these and others to be considered as an exhaustive list. The vast majority of these examples of “within rhetoric” metaphors are implicit metaphors.

In the chosen text, within rhetoric’s common forms of metaphor, we can note absolute metaphors. Such metaphors are pragmatic and/or theoretical relating to man and the world. In this, we would differ with Lakoff and Johnson who do not accept absolute metaphors, seeing all metaphors as a being relative or conceptual thought being reduced to relativism:
“But not only are they (metaphors} grounded in our physical and cultural experience: they also influence our experience and our actions” , “... the only kind of similarities relevant to metaphors are experiential, not objective, similarities”, and “ ... truth is always relative to a conceptual system that is defined in large part by metaphor”.

ConocoPhillips or parts of the firm or its business structures are characterised an agent or agents whose activities are metaphorically related to features or abilities of a human person:

5 p.3 ConocoPhillips adapted ... ConocoPhillips si è adattata …
6 p.4 Development ... is proceeding, but at a measured pace. I progetti per lo sviluppo di energie … continuano ad andare avanti, ma a un ritmo misurato.
7 p.14 ... actively measures and forecasts ... … misura e prevede attivamente …
8 p.14 ... (to) identify opportunities ... … (per) identificare opportunità …
9 p.23 ... company positions and responses ... … posizioni e risposte aziendali …
10 p.24 ... a single server can run ... … un unico server può far funzionare …
11 p.49 ... the prospect will ultimately fail ... … la prospettiva alla fine si indebolirà …
12 p.49 ... the company ... believes ... … la società … ritiene …
13 p.74 ... a two-step accounting test. … un test contabile bi-fase.
14 p.74 The accounting principles regarding goodwill acknowledge ... Questi principi contabili riguardanti il riconoscimento
dell’avviamento …
15 p.96 ... this information was ... disclosed in good faith ... … queste informazioni sono state diffuse in buona fede …
16 p.112 ... refining capacity available to run it. … capacità di raffinazione disponibile per farlo funzionare.

We find metaphorical activities with the attributes of farming:

17 p.4 We added new acreage in the Gulf of Mexico … Abbiamo ampliato la superficie in ettari nel Golfo del Messico …
18 p.19 ... to access growing volumes ... … per accedere ai volumi in crescita …
19 p.20 ... major capital growth projects ... … importanti progetti di crescita del capitale …
20 p.9 ... to develop ... fuels from biomass such as non-food crops ... ... per sviluppare … carburanti derivati da biomasse ad esempio coltivazioni non alimentari …
21 p.76 ... for certain fields located in the North Sea ... … per alcuni campi ubicati nel Mare del Nord …
22 p.97 ... from new wells ... … da nuovi pozzi …

We note metaphorical activities of war:

23 Inside cover ... by exercising ... consistent strategies ... ... mettendo in atto … strategie coerenti …
24 Inside cover Headquartered in Houston ... Con sede a Houston …
25 p.5 ... challenges that confront our industry ... ... delle sfide che la nostra industria si trova a dover affrontare …
26 p.11 ... our opportunity portfolio reinforces our commitment ... … il nostro portafoglio di opportunità rafforza il nostro impegno …
27 p.12 ... a disciplined long-term view ... … una disciplinata veduta a lungo termine …
28 p.19 ... while capturing benefits from efforts to enhance reliability. … mentre si catturano i benefici dagli sforzi per migliorare l’affidabilità.
29 p.20 Construction ... is scheduled for commissioning in late 2009. La costruzione … è programmata per la commissione verso la fine del 2009.
30 p.92 ... of those plans. … di quei piani.

There are metaphorical references to the environment:

31 p. 4 … steep declines ... … dal calo precipitoso …
32 p. 4 ... steep declines in share prices … dal calo precipitoso del prezzo delle azioni.
33 p. 12 Estimated net peak production Produttività massima netta stimata
34 p. 12 ... production ... would continue during 25-year plateau … la produzione … continuerà durante un plateau di 25 anni
35 p. 12 ... its upstream business ... … le sue attività upstream …
36 p. 17 ... downstream projects ... … progetti downstream …
37 p. 17 Ramping up production in a promising Arctic region ... Accrescere gradualmente la produzione in una regione artica promettente …
38 p. 19 ... in the midstream business sector ... … nel settore midstream dell’azienda …
39 p. 19 To help ensure the safe, reliable and uninterrupted flow of products ... Per aiutare a garantire il flusso sicuro, affidabile e ininterrotto di prodotti …
40 p. 21 ... into oil sand reservoirs ... … in riserve di sabbia petrolifera .…
41 p. 74 ... future cash flows … ... movimenti di liquidità futuri ... cash flow, flusso di cassa corrente, flusso monetario corrente.

What can be observed in example 40 above is that the translator in our target language may have a greater choice of syntagms that the source language.
There are no striking explicit classical, allegorical or parable extended metaphors to be found in the basic text. However, we do find some unintentional classical metaphors which would fall into a category of dead metaphors:

42 Copertina interna In addition, the company is investing in several emerging businesses ... that represent current and potential future growth opportunities. La società sta inoltre investendo in diverse attività emergenti … che rappresentano opportunità di crescita reali e potenziali.
43 p. 12 ... a strong portfolio of near-term growth projects and long-term opportunities … … un solido portafoglio di progetti di crescita a breve termine e opportunità a lungo termine …

The use of the classical Latin metaphor of “opportunity”, etymologically denoting a favourable wind blowing toward the harbour, ob- “in the direction of” and portus, ‘harbour’, has long been lost in both speech and literature.

We can find a number of catachrestic mixed metaphors where there is at times contain up to three metaphoric tropes:

44 p.11 ... to … extend field life … … per … estendere la vita del campo …
45 p.14 ... debottlenecking projects ... … progetti in aggiornamento per risolvere qualsiasi strettoia …
46 p.51 ... lump-sum election rates ... ... somme e tariffe totali da scegliere ...

There are also a number of dead or clichéd metaphors to be found which are so used in common speech as to have lost their original meanings, such as:

47 p.26 ... regarding the company’s Code of Business Ethics ... … a proposito del Codice etico aziendale …
48 p.41 ... we believe current cash ... will be sufficient ... … riteniamo che l’attuale liquidità sarà sufficiente …
Here “regarding” has lost its original meaning of “looking at”; “company” has lost its meaning of “(breaking) bread with (some person)”; “code” remains closest to its original meaning of a systemic collection of legal statutes; and “business” has lost its original metaphoric sense of “anxiety” for something, and “ethics” its original sense of the place or custom of life.

Non-common forms of rhetorical active metaphor are to be seen in statements which are not part of common daily language but rather of a business or commercial language and therefore are notable by their visibility:

49 p.40 Prices and margins are driven by market conditions ... I prezzi e i margini sono guidati dalle condizioni di mercato …
50 p.40 ... production factors are impacted by such conditions ... … i fattori produttivi vengono colpiti da tali condizioni …

We find complex metaphors where there is the superimposition of two metaphors, one on the other, in examples such as

51 p.2 Financial Highlights Dati di sintesi
52 p.2 Letter to Shareholders Lettera agli azionisti
53 p.9 Key focus areas include developing legacy assets … Le principali aree di interesse comprendono lo sviluppo dei legacy asset …
54 p.11 Canada’s substantial … properties achieved improved operational efficiency and uptime … Le solide proprietà canadesi … hanno aggiunto una migliore efficienza operativa e uptime …
55 p.48 We support a framework ... Sosteniamo una struttura …

Composite metaphors are to be found in:

56 p.4 ... wildcat drilling. ... perforazioni azzardate.
57 p.4 ... onshore basins ... ... bacini onshore …

There are metaphors from the world of physics:

58 p.35 ... reflecting higher estimated commodity prices .. … riflettendo prezzi delle commodity più alti ..
59 p.48 In light of this consensus ... Alla luce di questo consenso …

There are metaphors from the world of mathematics:

60 p.34 … after-tax impairment of our
LUKOIL investment taken during the fourth quarter. … perdita netta dopo imposte del nostro investimento LUKOIL durante il quarto trimestre.
61 p.40 The purchase of reserves ... was a significant factor ... L’acquisto di riserve … è stato un fattore significativo …
62 p.70 … a $39 million benefit to our R&M segment net income. … un beneficio di 39 milioni di dollari all’utile di esercizio della nostra divisione R&M
63 p.75 We have multiple supply and purchase agreements … Abbiamo molteplici accordi di fornitura e di acquisto …
64 p.75 … and an additional $76 million of accrued interest. … e altri 76 milioni di dollari addizionali di interessi maturati.
65 p.114 … performance calculated by multiplying total recordable cases by 200, 000 and then dividing by work hours. … prestazione calcolata moltiplicando per 200.000 i casi totali registrabili e poi dividendo per il numero di ore.

We find examples of moribund metaphors, where the use of the metaphor has gone into the basic structures of the language and its original transference is all but lost:

66 p.4 Additionally, … Inoltre ...
66 p.30 As a result, … Di conseguenza, …
67 p.40 In addition, ... Inoltre, …
68 p.97 ... with regard to .... ... in merito a ...

We find examples of paralogical metaphors or anti-metaphors where there is a lack of similarity between the idea and the image:

69 p.9 … to develop renewable transportation fuels from biomass such as non-food crops … ... per sviluppare carburanti da trasporto rinnovabili derivati da biomasse, ad esempio coltivazioni non alimentari, …
70 p.35 … resulting in a negative earnings impact of $470 million … … che ha avuto come risultato un impatto negativo dei guadagni di 470 milioni di dollari …

There are metaphors in the form of synecdoche such as:

71 p.3 Agreement to lease Kazakhstan’s promising N Block … … una lettera d’intenti per l’affitto del promettente N Block del Kazakistan …
72 p.12 .. an important part of the company’s Asia Pacific portfolio. .. una parte importante del portafoglio della società nella regione Asia Pacifico.

There are submersed metaphors where part of the image is missing such as:

73 p.12 Key achievements included completion of topside facilities … (on the surface of the sea) Tra i successi principali vi è stato il completamento degli impianti topside ... (sulla superficie del mare)
74 p.12 We will continue investing to grow production … Continueremo a investire per far crescere la produzione …

There are silent, surmised or inferred metaphors where adjectives or nouns acting as adjective describe other concepts:

75 p.14 … a 120-acre nursery woodland … … un giovane bosco di 50 ettari …
76 p.14 … in the hurricane-ravaged area surrounding the Alliance refinery … … nell’area devastata dall’uragano intorno alla raffineria Alliance …

A nursery is a crèche for small children and here the metaphor of the occupation of caring for what is young and fragile transfers to a new forest or plantation area. The original meaning of “ravage” was to destroyed with a rush or uncontrolled flow of water. Here, the metaphor transfers to wind which damage and destroys.

The brief examples of metaphor given so far are all within rhetoric, which we understand here in its broadest sense as a deployment of the study and art of the efficient use of language whether in speaking and writing effectively.

We shall come at a later point, as the third objective of this research, as to why these metaphors are needed as a means of communication


It might be thought at this point that there is an over-emphasis on the presence on “within rhetoric” metaphors in the analysis of the text so far. That is not our intention.

We have merely made mention of these “within rhetoric” metaphors — both implicit and explicit — to emphasise the intellectual and cognitive nature of metaphor in its various forms, and at this juncture, we merely wish to point out with Lakoff and Johnson that “Metaphors ... are conceptual in nature. They are among our principal vehicles of for understanding”.

However, we would not go as far as agreeing with one of the seven final summarised conclusions of these two authors that “Abstract thought is largely, though not entirely, metaphorical”.

Abstract thought is indeed conceptual in nature, as indeed metaphors are in their primary state. However, we do know from our own conceptual experiences and thought patterns, that in subjective human conception or ratio rationcinantis matters, in which the mind expresses itself, metaphor is not necessarily present, and in ratio rationcinatae matters, in which the mind reflects back on itself and on its own thought, metaphor is not present necessarily there.

Extra-rhetorical metaphors

It is, however, in metaphors which are outside rhetoric where we find the most modern forms, such as cognitive, conceptual, radical, therapeutic and visual metaphors, the first two of which are of particular interest for this research.

The identification of metaphors in our chosen is facilitated by the fact that as one reads the basic text, performing a mental translation at the same time, it becomes apparent immediately that the text abounds in many forms of metaphor which have to be handle in different ways into the translated word of the target language.

The second major division or type of metaphor is that which is found outside rhetoric and which is used extensively in our basic text. It is called the extra-rhetorical metaphor and is the type of metaphor which addresses the senses and the intellect in an indirect or more subtle manner. We are not told of the direct comparison. We sense the comparison or we intuitively grasp its meaning. These metaphors are not matters of mere language but take their functionality from a cultural reality. This cultural reality is very often, though not always, expressed in the real world by means of language. This type of extra-rhetorical metaphor divides into a number of categories, namely visual, therapeutic, radical, conceptual and cognitive.

Text reprise

The full ConocoPhillips 2008 Annual Report comprises some 116 A4 pages. However, from the strict viewpoint of reporting to shareholders at a general meeting — required by the law of most countries as an annual event — only two pages of this report are necessary and are what are commonly termed the ‘Profit and Loss Account’ and the ‘Balance Sheet’. In our basic text, they are termed — this company being a conglomerate — Consolidated Statement of Operations and Consolidated Balance Sheet. Everything else which is added, prior and post, to these two financial statements is merely there to satisfy different aspects of national laws, stock exchange regulations, the financial press, etc. This point we shall return to when dealing with the third objective of our research – the necessary means of modern communication.

Visual metaphor(s)

We find on the cover page that there is a significant latitudinal and longitudinal globe superimposed with photographs of oil-drilling and petroleum-related matters. It is a visual metaphor of the global nature of the firm, a window on the activities of the firm. Words are not necessary, though a caption of ‘Managing Global Challenges’ is inserted as a headline. It is essentially a subliminal visual metaphor for the company.

The visual metaphors continue with two of the directors of the firm shown smiling, a metaphor for good financial results, in plain white shirts, dark suits and sober ties to indicate a serious business attitude. The visual metaphors continue with floating line and block graphs which are metaphors for the growth of the firm.

The global nature of the firm is reinforced with further world maps. Striking images of offshore drills and onshore production facilities again copperfasten the strength and nature of the business. Visual metaphors of workers and employees in various forms of activity are to be found in photographs to indicate the hard-working natures of the workforce.

Therapeutic metaphors

This type of extra-rhetorical metaphor is an expression which facilitates a new sensation or experience. This is sometimes regarded as the “feel good” factor in a document. The therapeutic metaphor in our case implies that this financial report is a new happy experience for the reader. Because of the length of the document, it is indexed (inside cover page) into nine headings.

The index says immediately “Who we are” (divided into “Our Company” listing the most salient facts about the firm, and “Our Theme” listing the firm’s intentions, plans and future development. The unmentioned authors of this section of the report “remain confident of our ability to maintain current levels of production”. Nothing of this is in any way obligatory. It is a message to the various masses of readership.

The second striking therapeutic (and also visual) metaphor is the implied transference metaphoric suggestion that the company’s directors and employees are happy and hard-working people. Of the sixty nine photographs of company employees whose faces can be seen, fifty seven photographs are of smiling people and the remaining twelve photos are of attentive or serious people listening to the conversation of one of the smiling people.

At a written level, the Letter to Shareholders is a therapeutic metaphor for “good news” and it could have been easily entitled “This communication is good news”. It is not necessary under company law, barring the law of self-publicity as one of the means of communication with a variety of readers and stakeholders reporting the progress of the firm. The Letter to Shareholders facilitates a new experience. A similar comment can be made of other sub-sections of the financial report such as Worldwide Operations, Corporate Staff, etc.

It should be noted that the therapeutic metaphor is widely used in psychotherapy to assist in the suggestion on new outlooks and a clearer perception of current situations. In this sense, the firm is availing of its Annual Report to influence human behaviour.

Radical or root metaphors

There are two way of approaching the search for a radical or root metaphor, a priori in the formulation of a definition or description – proceeding from general propositions to one or more particular conclusions — and then proceeding to find out what matches it, or a posteriori in coming across a metaphor which is so basic that it satisfies all the needs of a root metaphor – which is essentially one from observed facts which meets the requirements of the specific need.

One of the better descriptions of radical metaphor, in another field entirely, is given by Mashito Koishikawa:

“There often is a central metaphor that dominates other metaphors in the story. This is a so-called root metaphor (or radical metaphor). The inner structure of the root metaphor forms the principle that organizes other subordinate metaphors. The root metaphor is the center and the whole. The subordinate metaphors are the parts that constitute the whole. Through the circulation of the whole and the parts, the inner structure of the root metaphor is gradually clarified. What we call the model is the formularization of the inner structure of the root metaphor.”

The Koishikawa definition “a central metaphor that dominates other metaphors” is as good a definition as one is going to find for a radical or root metaphor.

So therefore, what is the root metaphor in the 2008 Conoco Phillips Annual Report? A posteriori, we can say that it is undoubtedly the act of communication — “This annual report is an act of communication”. It satisfies the theoretical definition and gives sense to each of the component parts of the ConocoPhillips 2008 Annual Report. Nowhere in the Report is this statement made explicitly, however, its implicit presence is felt throughout the text.

Having recognised that outside rhetoric, there are significant metaphors such as visual, therapeutic and radical one, all of which tend to be implicit rather than explicit ones, we come to two important categories of outside of rhetoric metaphor — the conceptual and the cognitive metaphors which for us are the principal type of metaphor to be considered in this research.

Examples of extra-rhetorical metaphors (101-159)
Conceptual metaphors

Some authors regard the conceptual and the cognitive metaphor as one and the same. However, we prefer, as do other authors do, to regard the two as different, as they can present different features and characteristics. The conceptual metaphor extends its elements with the result that is constitutes the metaphor’s mapping or the laying out of its structure. The first element of the metaphor is a concept, the so-called tenor or target — the conceptual domain — which is being understood in terms of the directionality of another concept, the vehicle or source, e.g.

101 p.2 Oil prices rose to record levels ... Il prezzo del petrolio è aumentato fino a raggiungere livelli record …
102 p.3 (We) began takings steps to lower our cost structures. ... abbiamo iniziato a intraprendere delle azioni finalizzate ad abbassare la nostra struttura dei costi.

Here, oil prices are understood in terms of directionality, up and down. That is the first conceptual metaphor. We regard this nowadays as so common that we take it for granted. The second metaphor, though not in sentence order is “levels”. Oil and prices are being understood in terms, certainly not explicitly, of implied liquidity, seas, waters or rivers which achieve certain up and down levels. The third metaphor is that of the noun “record” used as an adjective. Here the noun-adjective gives the understanding of achievement, an upward direction, though in this case, one bad for the public’s purse.

Berkeley scientists Feldman and Narayanan suggest that the regularity with which different languages employ the same metaphors, which often appear to be perceptually based, has led to the hypothesis that the mapping between conceptual domains corresponds to neural mappings in the brain.

In the second example above, “taking steps” is a common conceptual metaphor which overlaps language barriers. We know its literal sense in the physicality of walking, but we also recognise the figurative pattern which the concept states explicitly. The second conceptual directional metaphors in the text is “to lower”, as if the company were taking its prices off one shelf and putting them on an inferior one. The third conceptual metaphor is taken from the construction industry — the company’s costs have a “structure”, again a conceptual metaphor which passes easily from one language to the next.

Lakoff and Johnson would also see metaphors of war in such words as “gains”, “losses”, “headquartered”, “officer”, “weakness”, “weakening”, “strengthening”, “strategy”, “strategic plans”, “targets”, etc.

They would also see metaphors of conduits in words such as “across”, “This transaction gives us access, ” “Our interest is held through a jointly owned company, ” and “a 364-day bank facility entered into during October, ” to give but a number of examples from the text.

Lakoff and Johnson would also see as structural or orientational metaphors, terms where the concepts are given in terms of one another, e.g. arising, lower prices, higher commodity prices, upstream, midstream, downstream, etc.

Based on this, the authors arrive at a conclusion which has significant implications for the translator when they say “No metaphor can ever be comprehended or even adequately represented independently of is experiential basis”. If the translator has no experience of the linguistic concept being referred, the translator will then be at a loss as to how to render the concept in the target language. This is an important aspect of the second objective of this research.

Without a knowledge of baseball or American football, the following metaphors will be in comprehensible to the uninitiated translator or reader:

103 p.11 E&P built significant acreage positions in several promising new resource plays. La divisione E&P ha costruito delle posizioni in acri in diverse fonti promettenti per sviluppare nuove risorse.
104 p.13 … compared with its record-breaking performance in 2007. … rispetto alle prestazioni del 2007, che hanno superato i record precedenti.
105 p.27 Our goal is for every employee … to drive the success of the company Il nostro obiettivo è che ogni dipendente … possa guidare il successo dell’azienda.

Ignoring for the moment, the construction metaphor of building and the agricultural metaphor of acreage, “positions” and “plays” are terms worked out on blackboards in team locker rooms as to where players are to place themselves on the field in order to have a sequenced action or “play” when passing the ball on the field.

The second phrase contains two metaphors one a sporting one of the “goal” or the posts to be targeted, and a motoring one, so beloved of US writers, “to drive the success”. Again, here the translator will have a certain difficulty in navigating the terms. In this, we are in agreement with Louça when he states “in cognitive mapping terms, knowledge is localized in the organization when it can be represented in the socio-cognitive model”.

The opposite is also worth mentioning in that the translator may find — during the task of translation — that a simple non-metaphorical word or phrase in the source language can be happily rendered as a metaphor in the target language, one which does not exist at all in the source language.

Conceptual motoring metaphors throughout the text such as “to drive the company’s future” and “accelerating work” are to be found in various locations. The company’s “future” is alternated with “growth”, “improvements”, “success”, “profitability”, etc. throughout the text as metaphorical aspects to be “driven”. We find “accelerated vesting” and “accelerating the recognition of expense”.

Metaphorical aspects of the linguistic vehicle are essential or non-essential attributes or characteristics, one or more of which can transfer to the tenor to supply the metaphoric transference.

The motoring metaphor continues when we read:

106 p.20 Production was further impacted by an atypical annual maintenance turnaround schedule for a number of facilities. La produzione è stata ulteriormente colpita da un atipico programma di ristrutturazione veloce della manutenzione annuale per un certo numero di installazioni.
107 p.40 ... the level and quality of output ... impacts our cash flows. … il livello e la qualità della produzione …ha un certo impatto sui nostri flussi di cassa.
In this example, impacts, annual maintenance, turnaround and schedules are all common aspects of motoring and of garage repairs.

However, when multiple conceptual metaphors occur in single sentence of a text with overlapping influences of one on the other, it becomes at times very difficult to unravel the correct meaning such as in

108 p.66 … we have elected to recognize expense on a straight-line basis over the service period for the entire award, whether the award was granted with ratable or cliff vesting. … abbiamo scelto di approvare le spese a quote costanti durante il periodo di revisione per l’intero conferimento, sia che il conferimento venga assegnato in modo proporzionale o in blocco.

Here we have metaphors taken from the political process of choices “we have elected”, from geometry “on a straight-line basis”, from the motor industry “over a service period”, from a legal or sporting background “for the entire award”, and “with ratable or cliff vesting” (i.e. the acquisition of the awards which can be estimated gradually or in block all at once) which combines two aspects of the metaphor at various degrees.

The unravelling of metaphors in close proximity involves understanding each of the concepts in the conceptual metaphor, and places obstacles in the path of the translator which have to be overcome:

109 p.9 Key focus areas include developing legacy assets … Le principali aree di interesse
comprendono lo sviluppo dei legacy asset …

The metaphor of the “key” is common to many languages as a fundamental aspect of some expressed thought. It implies a transference of its use as an instrument to open a door or gate in order to gain access at a physical level. It then rises to a conceptual level where the “key” can be a noun or adjective in expressed thought.

“Focus” implies the adjusting of an optical device to improve visibility, and then rises from this aspect to one of concentration. “Area” has come through various language transformations from its original Latin meaning of an “open space” or a “vacant plot” to being a branch of study or a function of business. “Legacy assets” are a metaphor for goods which have been left to a person in a final will or testament, but imply some form of goods which have come into the possession of the company, having been left over after an acquisition or a discontinued project.

The problem for the translator is seen with a very simple metaphor such as “to lead the way” which means to go ahead of the rest; to set an example or tone; to go first along a route to show others the way; to be a pioneer; to break new ground; to blaze a trail; to show the manner of proceeding (many of these definitions being themselves metaphors). Sometimes such the original metaphor of the text can be happily rendered by a similar one in the target language as follows:

110 p.5 They ... will lead the way to the future. Essi … contribuiranno a spianare la strada al futuro.

One of the principal problems for the translator is not to send the text in a different direction to what is being said in the original by an incorrect choice of linguistic field or tenor. The underlying systemic association in the metaphor between the many qualitative aspects of the vehicle (e.g. the king of the jungle) and the lesser known or fewer traits of the tenor (the lion), first of all in thought, and then in language, is the essential characteristic of the conceptual metaphor. The understood transference of at least one trait of the vehicle across to the tenor must occur for every metaphor to work and to make sense.

The translator may also wish to take the risk of translating the metaphor directly so as to create a new metaphor in the target language.

111 p.44 … satellite developments … … sviluppi satellite …

A satellite is normally understood as an orbiting body either as a planet, asteroid or an artificial one orbiting the earth. As architecture has allowed the use of “satellite city/cities”, the translator may find a way of using “satellite developments” in the plural without offending the target language, maintaining the metaphorical association between vehicle and tenor, and thus contributing to a new linguistic expression.
Cognitive metaphors

The cognitive metaphor is one which creates an association between vehicle/source and tenor/target — an association which is an experience outside the normal environment of the tenor. This is one of the differences between the conceptual metaphor — which expresses the underlying systemic experience or as some prefer calling it the “mapping” of the concept — and the cognitive metaphor which creates the experience.

112 Inside cover … the rapidly worsening financial crisis triggered a severe global economic recession … ... la crisi finanziaria in rapido peggioramento ha scatenato una severa recessione economica mondiale …

The word “trigger” is essentially a noun that means the lever on a gun which, on being pulled, frees the hammer to discharge the weapon. In the 20th century, the noun began to be used as a verb meaning to be the immediate cause of an event or to be the start of an event. Here, the cognitive metaphor creates a new image or concept as if the “financial crisis” were the bullet which was discharged causing an immediate effect — “a severe global economic recession”. The translator must work around the concept — of which more later on in this research — as there may well not be a single verb or phrasal verb in the target language to achieve the same conceptual and linguistic effect.


The cognitive metaphor is often found as well in headings such as:

113 p.1 Financial Highlights Dati di sintessi

A good Italian glossary will usually render “financial highlights” as “dati di sintessi”. Here, we have a problem in that “high lights”, “high-lights” and then written as “highlights” are linguistic neologisms of the 20th century, where the limelights or footlights of the dramatic or operatic stage were replaced with electric lights high on the theatre ceiling. The metaphoric transference of the high light went to the person whom it was illuminating on stage. That person or that person’s acting or singing became the “highlight” of the performance.

However, the translator will not be able to translate this metaphor either directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, and will therefore have to the conceptual meaning of what is being expressed.

114 Inside cover Operating Review
Andamento finaziario

Here the translator will have to find a balance between the implied metaphors in both terms. “Review” is more than a statement “resoconto”, and less than a criticism “critica”. It is not a legal revision “revisione”, and not a re-examination of the figures “riesame”, but rather an overview “veduta generale” of the operations of the firm. Without reading first the actual “review” itself, it would be an error to assume anything or to make the mistake that this review were financial, when in fact it will be seen to be statements about the exploration and production operations of the firm – not actually required in a set of financial accounts at all.

Close proximity of metaphors

115 p.31 As commodity prices and refining margins fluctuated upward … I prezzi delle commodity e i margini di raffinazione sono fluttuati verso l'alto …

The presence of several cognitive metaphors in close proximity also causes problems for the translator who must examine such as in the example above. Prices of items “easily obtainable” in the original sense of commodities, and the edges (in the original sense of margins) of materials being refined are regarded as some form of flowing liquid (the original sense of fluctuation) moving in a higher direction (up) towards a different location (ward).

The matter is compounded if the translator wishes to move away from the concept of “commodity” to that of “raw materials” which can be easily rendered as “materie prime” with a shift of metaphoric content in the adjectives. Alternatively, the translator may wish to retain “commodity” — “(il) termine inglese entrato oramai nel gergo commerciale ed economico per la mancanza di un equivalente italiano”.

Explicit cognitive metaphors

To know what is being spoken of commercially at times in this 2008 Annual Report, one must have a knowledge of accounting, business or production procedures. The following are examples:

116 p.19 ... new reliability initiatives benefitted not only the bottom line, but just as importantly our customers and the environment. … nuove iniziative affidabili hanno beneficiato non solo l’utile d’esercizio, ma altrettanto significativamente i nostri clienti e l’ambiente.

The “bottom line” – literally the last line or heading — in a Profit and Loss Account or, as it is called in the ConocoPhillips 2008 Annual Report, the “Consolidated Statement of Operations” is the heading “Net Income (Loss)” showing the gain or loss for the year. The “bottom line” is a metaphor in normal speech for the profitability of a project.

Here, the “bottom line” is being used in its second metaphoric context as being “the fundamental and deciding factor” of an issue. Normally, the bottom line in human affairs suggests that an action is acceptable if the price is right, and if the price is not right, the action cannot be undertaken.

117 p.19 ... DCP Midstream ... worked to minimize12 downtime during overhauls .... … DCP Midstream … si è adoperata per ridurre al minimo il tempo di inattività durante le revisioni …

When a worker puts down his tools due to an unplanned or weather-related problem, or due to a strike and cannot work normally, this period of time not being at work is metaphorised as “downtime”.

118 p.19 ... master limited partnership ... … master limited partnership …
Here, the texts transfers the idea of a general or comprehensive plan of action and transfer the metaphor to a limited partnership.

We also see cognitive metaphors transferring aspects of personification to actions as in various forms

119 p.14 An active U.S. hurricane season ... reduced runs elsewhere. Negli USA una stagione attiva di uragani … ha ridotto ovunque i cicli produttivi.
120 p.16 ... a single server can run multiple independent operating systems. … su un unico server si possono eseguire più sistemi operativi indipendenti.
121 p.31 Some of these technologies have the potential to become important drivers of profitability in future years. Alcune di queste tecnologie hanno le potenzialità per diventare importanti motori di redditività negli anni futuri.
122 p.37 Crude oil runs Cicli produttivi del petrolio greggio

We also see here that today’s fuels span the river of need — to use a metaphor of our own — and serve until better fuels come to hand.

123 p.21 ... society needs fossil fuels ... to serve as bridging fuels until tomorrow’s energy sources are ready ... … la società umana ha bisogno dei combustibili fossili come combustibili “ponte” fintantoché non saranno disponibili le fonti energetiche di domani …

though this could also be considered a cognitive simile, due to the presence of the conjunction “as”.

There are also instances where headings are implicit cognitive metaphors such as in

124 p.33 Dry holes Pozzi secchi

where the drilled well has produced no results and is barren.

There is both metaphor and metonymy, when the text speaks of:

125 p.31 ... we filed a request ... with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an arm of the World Bank. … abbiamo presentato una richiesta … al Centro Internazionale per la Risoluzione delle Controversie relative agli Investimenti (ICSID), un ramo della Banca Mondiale.

The request was asked of or presented to the World Bank. The original implication of the “file” would be to have the request placed in a correct order in a box or container. However, the action of submitting a document to be placed officially on record, now becomes a metaphoric filing. The World Bank is regarded as a corporate body having an arm, which accepts the submission of a file, but also in a double metaphor, the arm has a hand and fingers capable of holding the file.

Noun and verbal cognitive forms of metaphors

At a cognitive metaphoric level, we encounter in the text a number of nouns and also verbal forms which are in fact implied metaphors at a cognitive level. Many of such nouns are now “technical” terms in financial terminology and many are neologisms. While in one sense there is an explicit statement of the term, its implicit underlying nature has to be recognised.

126 p.21 … Since society needs fossil fuels to power the global economy and serve as bridging fuels until tomorrow’s energy sources are ready, … … Poiché la società umana ha bisogno dei combustibili fossili come combustibili “ponte” fintantoché non saranno disponibili le fonti energetiche di domani, …
127 p.34 The decrease in net income was attributed to the goodwill impairment … Il calo dell’utile d’esercizio è stato attribuito al deterioramento dell’avviamento …
128 p.36 Natural gas liquids fractionated Liquidi del gas naturale frazionati
129 p.67 … where the legal right of offset exists, … … dove sussiste il diritto legale di compensazione (compenso), …

While one of the six original meanings of “offset” was “to set off; to cancel by a contrary account or sum; to balance”8, in effect a contra entry in bookkeeping, the metaphor changed to meaning a partial application of a profit or loss, or sum in general, as in the Financial Accounting Stanmdards Board (BASB) Interpretation No. 39 “Offsetting of Amounts related to Certain Contracts” and becomes a legal right.

Originally “good-will” (sic) in the 19th century was “the influence exerted with the view of transferring the custom of any shop or trade to a successor”, 8 the newly coined neologism of the 20th century “goodwill” saw a transference from its meaning of influence to that of the value attaching to the influence or friendly feeling.
The mathematical aliquot of a whole number, a fraction, meaning also particularly in chemistry, the violent act of breaking or the state of having been broken, transfers its metaphor content becoming a 20th century verbal neologism, “to fractionate”, meaning to separate the ingredients of a mixture of items.

130 p.48 … changes in a parent’s ownership interests … … variazioni nelle partecipazioni azionarie di una capogruppo …
131 p.49 … to improve the transparency associated with the disclosures … … per migliorare la trasparenza associata alle informazioni divulgate …

Here, the implied cognitive metaphor again necessitates a knowledge of business structures. The parent is not a mother or father, but rather that company which owns the shares of an affiliate company.

The genealogical tree of hereditary is applied metaphorically to a business structure to help ease the recognition of relationships which the text explicitly states are those not of a bloodline but of ownership.

The implied physical properties of the transparency of glass or crystal are transferred by metaphorical association to business disclosures, which yet again need a knowledge of business accountancy and management procedures to be appreciated.

132 p.50 … the proved oil and gas reserves estimate for a field … … stima delle riserve provate di petrolio e gas relative a un campo …

The text constantly relies on implied cognitive metaphors from the fields logic or mathematics as if syllogisms were being proven or formulas were being applied.

p.51 … we have material legal obligations to … restore the land or seabed at the end of operations … … abbiamo gli obblighi legali materiali di … ripristinare il terreno o il letto marino al termine delle operazioni …
134 p.51 Our largest asset removal obligations involve removal and disposal of offshore oil and gas platforms … I nostri maggiori obblighi per il ritiro dei cespiti comportano la rimozione e lo smaltimento delle piattaforme offshore di petrolio e gas …

Metaphors arising from two oil exploration technical terms, both neologisms of the 20th century, show how different languages handle their presence in the language. “Offshore” offers some difficulties to the Italian translator due to its several modern meanings arising out of fiscal and exploration issues. “Platform” causes little or no difficulty to the translator and a raised construction on land transfers some of its characteristics quite easily to an exploration and drilling rig in the sea.

We stop here at around fifty examples – there are many, many more — of different types of conceptual and cognitive metaphor taken from our text.4 They show a structured and a new form of conception of things and indeed of thought processes — new, on the one hand, in that they have arisen to the last century and new, on the other hand, in that they take aspects of known concepts and apply them to the new technologies, processes, procedures and expression of the 21st century.

Translation strategy and tactic

Titles and headings are notoriously dangerous ground for the translator, and are usually best left until the translation is all but complete. There are three military metaphors in the following title:

135 Inside cover Directors and Officers Amministratori e funzionari
136 p.5 Chief Executive Officer Amministratore delegato

These titles cannot be translated word for word and the translator must move cognitively to create a new concept, or syntagm as is the case here, to express the functions of the person. As can be seen here, the three singular metaphors in the English title are lost in the correct Italian translation. ‘Chief’ implies the most important person in a group, tribe or military command, especially in a navy setting. ‘Executive’ implies the use of power, and ‘officer’ implies a rank with responsibilities attached to it. None of this comes across in the Italian syntagm where the person could be considered to have been delegated to administer a function.

Blame for this must not be placed on the target language, or on the source language in the case of a back-translation, it is simple proof that all metaphors do not translate.

Even using the alternative Italian word for director “consigliero”, one who advises or gives counsel, the metaphor in the source text is not achieved, nor indeed when ‘officers’, persons with a rank and responsibility, is rendered as ‘funzionari’ — those with a function or purpose to do something but having neither a rank nor an explicit responsibility or competence.

137 p.1 Net income (loss) per share of common stock — diluted Utile (perdita) d’esercizio per azione ordinaria — diluito


Copyright shared by and the author, 1999-2006. All rights reserved. -
The Use of Metaphors
Author: InfoMarex
Spanish to English translator
Platinum since Sep 26, 2008 
By InfoMarex
Published on 04/30/2010

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