Is "We have to catch an early train" a dead metaphor? Because you can't "catch" a train?

And is "The train doesn't run after 4 AM" a personification? Because a train can't "run", but we give it the 'ability' to run?

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    Old metaphors never die, they just fade away. "Catch" still makes perfect sense, if you've ever been late to the subway stop. And "run" has long had the sense of "moving" or "operating", and that sense won't go away anytime soon. – Hot Licks Dec 10 '16 at 13:09
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    'Catch a train' is not a metaphor. Many things can 'run', including trains, clocks, motors, rivers. Nylon stockings can 'have a run', but that doesn't mean they are going to enter a marathon. – Alan Carmack Dec 10 '16 at 13:44
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    And how can a metaphor be "dead" when it was never alive in the first place? – Hot Licks Dec 10 '16 at 14:04

Wikipedia defines a dead metaphor as "a figure of speech which has lost the original imagery of its meaning due to extensive, repetitive, and popular usage."

Catching a train has arguably never been a metaphor, and consequently it can't be a dead metaphor. ODO has, for catch:

1. Intercept and hold (something which has been thrown, propelled, or dropped)

4. Reach in time and board (a train, bus, or aircraft)

It's easily seen that 4 is simply an extension of 1. The train is being intercepted in its journey, albeit at a specified point at which it is supposed to stop of its own accord. There's no imagery here, as there is in a metaphor like kick the bucket or even fall in love (both examples in the Wikipedia article). In those examples, there is no kicking or falling; in catching a train, there is an interception. It's not a metaphor; the original meaning is simply extended to include intercepting a propelled object which has stopped in order to allow itself to be intercepted.

The idea of a train or water running, though, could be a dead metaphor. Neither trains nor water have legs, so they can't actually run. There is some imagery there, which has probably been lost "due to extensive, repetitive and popular usage." However the word is so old (it's actually an Old English — pre-Conquest — word) that again that loss may simply be an extension of meaning.

OED has a definition "5. a. intr. Without necessary implication of speed: to go about freely, without being restrained or checked in any way," and its first citation is attributed to King Alfred! Because there's no metaphor here either, there can't be personification: water is simply allowed to go about freely and unrestrained.

With regard to a train, OED has a definition "1. c. intr. To travel or go about (hurriedly), esp. to distant places;" and one can hardly expect a person to run on his legs to distant places. Again, the earliest citation is from an Old English source.

I don't believe it's metaphor or personification. I believe the normal human definition of run has been extended and is applicable to inanimate objects.

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