So this week we have enjoyed the hottest July day on record – and I am concerned that the headline writers are seriously in danger of running out of adjectives to describe the scorching/sweltering/blistering temperatures. I fear it is not just the train tracks that are in danger of melting as we all try to come up with ever more extreme descriptors.
Whilst this is completely understandable when the temperatures are actually high, have you ever stopped to think how frequently we use metaphors and idioms related to heat in our everyday language regardless of how hot it actually is?
We use metaphors to communicate complex ideas easily and naturally, they are powerful vehicles for conveying meaning.
Metaphors and idioms referring to heat often relate to feelings of pressure, discomfort and emotions such as anger (the very states that prevent us having fun in the sun). They generally have negative connotations – such as:
- Taking the heat – putting up with criticism
- Turn the heat up – increasing the pressure
- If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen – if you cannot accept the problems of involvement, don’t get involved
- In the heat of the moment – doing or saying something when you are to angry or excited to think properly
- The heat is on – a situation is becoming more difficult and urgent
- In hot water – an uncomfortable situation
- Hot under the collar – angry or agitated
- Too hot to handle – too risky/dangerous
- In the hot seat – a painful or difficult situation
- Like a cat on a hot tin roof – anxious or agitated
The list is endless, but you get the point.
But here’s the problem – because we have anchored a negative response to the word or concept of “heat”, whenever we are told temperatures are going to rise, the danger is that we develop a negative state because of the meaning we have placed on the word. Maybe this is the actual cause of the increase in angry outbursts, road rage etc. when the temperatures soar, rather than the temperature itself.
Personally, I hope it is – because that means we just need to change our thinking (change our metaphors) and our state will change – we can take the heat off ourselves whilst having fun in the sun