Is Einstein's geodesic a metaphor or an idiom?

I am applying semantic theory to physical theory to bridge the two realities and have found the discussion on metaphor and odium illuminates this purpose.

  • 1
    Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Jun 10 at 22:07
  • 2
    Do you really mean to use "odium" in your question?
    – user888379
    Jun 10 at 23:06
  • 1
    A geodesic is a real enough thing, and Einstein's geodesic is a name given to the generalised notion of a "straight line" in curved spacetime. "Einstein's" is often used as a determiner implying a connection to his general theory of relativity. To me, it seems literal.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 10 at 23:56
  • This seems off-topic, at least without a much more substantial explanation of the problem you're having. The nature of spacetime and the status of formalisms within general relativity is a matter for philosophy of science, not English language. It isn't really something you can expect linguists to give an opinion on.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 11 at 11:00
  • 1
    "Odium" == "State of disgrace resulting from detestable behaviour" ; "Idiom" == "An expression whose meanings cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up" ; "Metaphor" == "A figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity" :::: None of these are valid to use with geodesic!
    – Prem
    Jun 11 at 12:54

1 Answer 1


An idiom is a lexical and/or syntactic fixed phrase that does not work like normal phrases, and does not mean what it looks like it should mean. For example, no buckets, books, or hands are involved in these examples:

  • kick the bucket (= die)
  • make book (= operate a betting pool)
  • give me a hand (= help me)

Any fixed phrase, or construction like let alone, is an idiom. Note that this describes the form of an idiom, not its meaning. And the meanings are almost always very metaphoric.

There are no books necessarily involved in making book, but there is a careful record of the bettors, like a book. There are no hands necessarily involved in giving me a hand, but they might be involved, and they function as a metaphor of human activity.

Returning to Einstein's geodesic, first one has to decide whether mathematics is composed of metaphors, or not. My own take is that any idea that exists only in human minds is much more likely to be metaphoric than not. Since math has its own communicational systems, it's hard to say that any given chunk of it is idiomatic, because it's not language. But math can certainly be metaphoric, especially since most of our thought is metaphors.

  • I think everything is metaphor(e) echoing in some whey reality. Whey is my generalisation of the Father's of the Early Church idea that God as most spiritul is least material. I take materiality in a slightly spiritual sense...like logical matter only its logistical and compulsory. Jun 12 at 4:44

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