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I was wondering if there was a word to describe height/spatial figurative language. For example, the use of "high" or "low" spatial positions to describe higher/lower socioeconomic classes, or an imbalance of power.

I would like to use this hypothetical word in my literary essay. I have thought of words such as spatial imagery or spatial perception. Below is a hypothetical sentence I would use this word in:

The use of purposeful word in this scene, illustrated through the protagonist 'kneeling and bending' while Alex is on his tiptoes, highlights the socioeconomic divide between Alex and the protagonist.

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  • I apologize. I will do that now.
    – zotz99
    Nov 9, 2020 at 18:23
  • A hierarchy has some low man on the totem pole and others higher, on the archy. Nov 9, 2020 at 18:24
  • You can talk about "position" on an economic or power scale. Nov 9, 2020 at 18:28
  • Some usages are contradictory. For example, top drawer means of high social standing or very good quality, but bottom drawer is where a young woman keeps (valuable) things (such as silverware and linen) that she will use after she gets married. So top and bottom drawers are both "good, prized, valuable". Nov 9, 2020 at 18:30

2 Answers 2

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I think the word that might be closest is "stature," but with a tiny bit of tweaking for usage.

The use of purposeful stature in this scene, illustrated through the protagonist 'kneeling and bending' while Alex is on his tiptoes, highlights the socioeconomic divide between Alex and the protagonist.

VS

The purposeful contrast in stature in this scene, illustrated through the protagonist 'kneeling and bending' while Alex is on his tiptoes, highlights the socioeconomic divide between Alex and the protagonist.

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  • Hi, welcome to EL&U. This would benefit from a definition with a reference and your explanation of how it fits. Please take a moment to tour the site and see the faq, and thanks.
    – livresque
    Nov 9, 2020 at 22:37
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You're talking about conceptual metaphors.

Conceptual metaphors are part of the common language and conceptual precepts shared by members of a culture. These metaphors are systematic because there is a defined correlation between the structure of the source domain and the structure of the target domain. We generally recognize these things in terms of a common understanding. For example, in our culture, if the source concept is "death," the common target destination is "leave-taking or departure."

[Nordquist; ThoughtCo]

Here the source concept is socioeconomic class, the target destination altitude, and you are using an orientational metaphor.

From the same source:

Cognitive linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have identified three overlapping categories of conceptual metaphors:

  • An orientational metaphor is a metaphor that involves spatial relationships, such as up/down, in/out, on/off, or front/back....
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    Yep. Since humans evolved and live in a 1G field, we have sensors for Up/Down where we don't for Right/Left. There's never any mistake about up and down, as long as we can feel gravity. That means it's something everybody understands, which means it's available to describe anything we can conceptualize as a vertical scalar. And we do. And they go together very nicely, too. Nov 9, 2020 at 19:41
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    Thanks for the links to the original. You'd think there would be Seven Up metaphors. Nov 9, 2020 at 19:45

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