Weaponization: Ubiquity and Metaphorical Meaningfulness
Conceptual metaphor theory implies that ubiquitous metaphors become mere descriptions or concepts if they are not embedded in competing discursive communities. This paper demonstrates that weaponiz- retained its meaningfulness after becoming ubiquitous despite being used by all sides in contemporary contentious politics. Because metaphors derive their figurativeness through tension, weaponiz- shows that temporality, or social time, can be marshaled to contrast an unpleasant "now" with a better "past." This metaphoricity stands in contrast to the word's conceptual origins in the Cold War defense industry as a literal description of the logistical deployment of weapons systems. As the word's use mutated into a metaphor around 2003, it took on its contemporary moral meaning of over-politicizing things that had been, and should remain, neutral or peaceful. By 2017 "the weaponization of everything" implied that all aspects of social life were newly embroiled in illegitimate politics, making the metaphor a profound act of nostalgia that erased even recent conflicts. This paper thus adds temporal rhetorical tension as one of the ways that metaphors can retain meaningfulness through a case study of a metaphor that arose only recently, demonstrating the usefulness of diachronic analyses of novel metaphor emergence.
Mattson, Greggor. 2020. "Weaponization: Ubiquity and Metaphorical Meaningfulness." Metaphor and Symbol 35(4): 250-265.
Metaphor and Symbol
Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies
Sociology, Argument, Career