# What metaphor can I use for a collection of notes/facts?

I'm trying to come up with a metaphor that represents a collection of facts/notes around one thing. I've tried "deck" and "notebook" but they don't really work. Any ideas?

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It's difficult to understand exactly what you are looking for. Can you give us a sentence in which you'd like to use the word? You might consider a body of knowledge. – Jim May 26 '13 at 17:27
It would be used as in "Create New [metaphor]" or "Add to [metaphor]". In the computer software sort of sense. – lawx May 26 '13 at 18:13

Well, to start with, to say they're a collection is to assume they're the same kind of thing, and that they are somehow connected, at least for future reference and retrieval. So some work has been expended to mark them.

Second, to say that they're "collected" around one thing is to say that there is some metaphorical geometric arrangement. Mathematically, the thing they're around implies a polar coordinate system, either 2- or 3-dimensional, with the "thing" centred at (0, 0(, 0)) and possibly a distance metric between the items in the collection and the center point, though not necessarily between the items themselves.

There are, of course, many more dimensions in collections like this than three.
But three is all we can deal with cognitively, so that's what metaphors use.

• Two-dimensional Surface (on/onto, page, paper, letter, written) metaphors
• Three-dimensional Container (in/into/within, contain/contents, conceptual) metaphors

Deck has several meanings, and I'm assuming it's the deck of cards sense you intend. That makes it a collection of 2-dimensional objects, which is OK, but without any center or connections, beyond four suits, two colors, ten digits (from 2 through 10 rather than 0 through 9), four capital letters (A, J, Q, K), and a slew of rules for playing with them.

You could also be referring to a Tarot deck, but that's just too obscure (though the category space is much much larger in Tarot, there aren't nearly as many games). And two-dimensional metaphors are most useful for writing, and there's damn little on either deck. So I can imagine that didn't work well.

As for notebook, there are way too many things that are called notebooks. You don't want a piece of all-purpose hardware, but that's the first thing that pops up these days when one hears a notebook. The original, pen-and-ink, variety is another collection of two-dimensional objects, this time with writing on them, which is an improvement, but linked only at one edge, with no centroid, no metric, no categorization, no interrelations -- and no index, a fatal flaw. So that's not surprising, either.

You might try some 3-D metaphors: database, box, sack/bag, shelf/ves, cabinet, etc.

However, since a good metaphor should match more than abstract characteristics, one can't go much further than this without knowing more, like

• What kind of thing are the "things"?
• Are the "things" real, physical, discrete objects? Events? States? How are they measured?
• Are the "things" -- instead -- metaphorical concepts like patterns, expectations, or beliefs?
• If so, what metaphors are already used in their descriptions?
• What kind of thing are the "facts/notes"?
• ditto.
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Very in-depth advice! Thank you! – lawx May 26 '13 at 17:48
On looking again, maybe the best metaphor (though it will be comprehensible only in a small group) is hash table. In its original sense, though hashtags tend to work like this, too, and that's a potential hook. Note that table is a 2½-dimensional metaphor -- it's a 2-D area with limited vertical extension and limited vertical movement enabled. Rather like human beings, in fact. – John Lawler May 26 '13 at 17:56
Hmm... I dunno about that. It shouldn't be extremely technical, I'm just looking for a simple metaphor, like "Trash" or "Folder" that one could immediately understand it's purpose. – lawx May 26 '13 at 17:59
Trust me, "Trash" and "Folder" were not immediately understandable when they first appeared in IT. I was there and I was doing a lot of tech support. The idea that you have to "empty trash" is still a bit of a problem for some folks. You grew up with them; but very few metaphors are obvious. How about a "hash table" not as a matrix, but as a large table with some "thing" on it, plus -- scattered all around the table, in movable piles or drifts or neat stacks, where you can put your finger on them right away -- all the hashtags you've accumulated, each pointing to `Whatever`. – John Lawler May 26 '13 at 18:09
I dunno, this metaphor is intended for a project/product, and I don't really think most people recognize what a "new hash table" button does. Collection is fine for me. – lawx May 26 '13 at 18:11

One metaphor that comes to mind is shoebox - the informal/makeshift version of a filing cabinet. Here's an example where the container may or may not be an actual "shoebox"...

In the course of my research, whenever I ran across the name of a coworker of Tycho Brahe, I made a notecard and put it in the shoebox.

More literally, the CIA call theirs a factbook.

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One of the first and most useful pieces of software designed by the SIL for field linguists was called Shoebox, because they used to use index cards arranged in shoeboxes for field analysis. It's still supported and still available, and still free. www-01.sil.org/computing/shoebox – John Lawler May 26 '13 at 18:12
@John: As with the link in my answer, that software context emphasises the "organised" nature of information/mementos kept in real or figurative shoeboxes, but personally I tend to associate it more with a disorganised collection of stuff you think/know you might want later. One thing's for sure though - in most of these written instances of took out the shoebox, regardless of whether it's a real shoebox, it certainly won't contain shoes. – FumbleFingers May 26 '13 at 19:17