Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

My primary and most common example is to read something and say (or write) that it "sounds familiar". Text has no sound. I'm sure there is a technical term for this practice or phenomenon. What is it?

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The technical term you're thinking of is synesthesia

a neurologically based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

...but you don't really want to say that. Your usages are simply metaphoric

a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance.

Everyone does this all the time, often without realising. A blind friend of mine only occasionally registers the fact that he says "I see what you mean" as often as anyone else.

One broad classification of metaphors is into cognitive (involving thought, meaning, purpose, etc.) as opposed to perceptual (based on sense perceptions). Perceptual metaphors can be further subdivided into visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, etc. I'm not aware of a single term for metaphors where both the thing referenced, and the metaphor, involve different sensory inputs.

share|improve this answer
1  
Synesthesia is the neurological mixing or confusion of senses, and is experienced as real for the subject. I'm just looking for a term, maybe in vain, for this type of 'synesthesiac metaphor'. –  ProfK Feb 16 '12 at 19:18
    
Well if you're sure there is a specific term for 'sensory crossover' metaphors, I'm in no position to say there won't be, but I've either never come across it or I didn't remember it. Visual metaphor, for example, is an extremely common term, but auditory metaphor less so, and olfactory/tactile/gustatory metaphor hardly exists at all. In the end I think the best you'll get is perceptual metaphor, so I'll amend the answer to reflect that. –  FumbleFingers Feb 16 '12 at 20:25
    
Yes, perceptual metaphor seems appropriate[1], but although I'm no linguist, I just see metaphor as something more intentional, i.e. not used erroneously, consciously or not. [1] Funny enough, somebody elsewhere suggested malapropism. –  ProfK Feb 17 '12 at 5:10
    
Perhaps Mustafa wasn't so wrong after all! It seems to me you're narrowing your requirement to dead perceptual metaphors. Now I truly will be gobsmacked if anyone turns up a specific single word for that! Malapropisms are genuine mistakes - a blind person saying "I see what you mean" is normal use of language. –  FumbleFingers Feb 17 '12 at 13:17
add comment

I perceive it as "dead metaphor" Wikipedia

share|improve this answer
2  
-1: A "dead metaphor" (somewhat recursive, given it's a metaphoric usage itself!) simply means a metaphoric usage that's become so common people often don't even realise it is metaphoric. OP is specifically looking for a term to describe only those metaphors that refer to one type of sensory input in terms of another sense. –  FumbleFingers Feb 16 '12 at 21:45
    
Thank you, @FumbleFingers. –  ProfK Feb 17 '12 at 5:04
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.