Love that metaphor!

How can we think of things?  Let me count the ways…

“Finally, the spleen gets some respect”, Natalie Angier tell us.  If not a general in the war our bodies are engaged in, it at  least does the job of damn good foot soldiers.

Reporting in the current issue of the journal Science, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School describe studies showing that the spleen is a reservoir for huge numbers of immune cells called monocytes, and that in the event of a serious trauma to the body like a heart attack, gashing wound or microbial invasion, the spleen will disgorge those monocyte multitudes into the bloodstream to tackle the crisis.

The parallel in military terms is a standing army,” said Matthias Nahrendorf, an author of the report. “You don’t want to have to recruit an entire fighting force from the ground up every time you need it.”


So are the organs of our bodies gendered too?  Like, the spleen is one of the boys?

5 thoughts on “Love that metaphor!

  1. This is a WONDERFUL post! I’ve definitely found myself running in circles and I’ve found that when I stop to think about what I’m running from (or to) that the circling stops. I don’t always do this but I know that I should and I plan to make sure that I do in the future. Great stuff here! I love it!

  2. I’ve been doing a qualitative analysis of the metaphors people use when quitting tobacco. Most of the study participants were male, and quite a few of them use battle metaphors. The few women who participated in the study generally don’t do that – unfortunately, there were so few that it’s hard to get a handle on what metaphors they use instead. Nor can I really relate the types of metaphors used to success rates. It’s interesting, though.

  3. Maybe I’m missing something here, but is this supposed to be gendered because military occupations have traditionally been reserved for men? Besides that association, I don’t see why we would think the “standing army” metaphor is gendered.

  4. I saw a great paper by Jacqueline Zita at a conference, called “Reference Man and the Female Immune System.” I don’t know if she ever published it, but in the paper she went through several immunology texts to look at the metaphors used, and of course, she found a lot of war metaphors.

    She then reimagined what these descriptions would look like if we replaced the metaphors with less violent ones, like “reading,” or “recognizing.”

    One of the points she made about the war metaphors is that they create rigid body boundaries, so that some things (e.g. pollution) cannot be thought as matters of immunology because they are ‘outside.’ Other things (e.g. pregnancy) cannot be thought because of the way they are inside.

    I don’t know whether she ever published this paper, I did a quick search, and cannot seem to find it under this name, nor can I find her CV on-line. If anyone has read it, I’d love the reference.

  5. Colin, I was really just relying on the cultural association of war and armies with men. I thinkit goes pretty deep. Interesting Bakka and lga. One has to wonder whether it helps with the stress or not to see oneself as engaged in a battle. It’s alarming to find the metaphors shape inquiry, though Johnson and Laykoff would say it’s happening all the time, I suppose.

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