11. Use Metaphor-by-Conjunction

I came; I saw; I conquered.

Caesar wrote that (in Latin, veni, vedi, vici). Literally, vici means he won.

But everyone understands that phrase as meaning more than just winning, suggesting a figurative meaning. The extra meaning isn't perfectly clear – Caesar lost control of meaning – but a typical interpretation is that Caesar's victory was swift and decisive.

Of course, if Caesar just wanted to say his victory was swift and decisive, he could have. I think he was bragging and saying that his victory was like coming and seeing – routine things, easily done. That means he was using hyperbole.

If Caesar had written just "I conquered", he would have been stuck with only the literal meaning. The figurative meaning is created by the inclusion of coming and seeing. In other words, two of the things on the list somehow gave meaning to the third. It is as if he wrote:

I came, I saw, and in the same manner I conquered.

So Caesor was creating a metaphor, comparing his victory to coming and seeing. I call this metaphor-by-conjunction.

The following is a long allegory ending with a nice metaphor-by-conjunction. He has come down to breakfast, and the person he counts on to be there isn't there.

If you think about it, anything can change anytime, like the way it changed for those people pushing their bagel carts in the Twin Towers when the planes hit. Everyone has expectations, I guess, like that the sun will rise or you'll have Ben's home fries every morning, or you'll live through the day. (Teen Inc., pages 128-129)

The following, however, is not metaphor by conjunction; it's not even figurative. Instead, it's just a list of three things.

I came to France, I had a good time, I learned a lot.

As far as I know, every figurative expression needs some signal that it's figurative. Apparently metaphor-by-conjunction is triggered by the other things in the group being irrelevant to the story. (Or at least irrelevant to that part of the story.) For example, no one needed Caesar to say he came to that country or saw it.

It seems like a miracle – first a bra, and now I can use the downstairs bathroom.

The bra had already been discussed, and was being brought back into the story just to be in the same category with downstairs bathroom (things usually taken for granted but that seemed like joys to her).

An actual conjunction (and) isn't necessary, the point is only for the things to somehow be put in the same category. That happens in the second paragraph here:

I reach over Elaine's back as she reads in bed, and I fondle her breast. She sighs, puts down her book, and turns to me, smiling, willing to have sex with me.
I remember when she was eager to have sex with me. When she never sighed first. I remember wanting her so much.

The second paragraph is three things, the first two being things that aren't true any more. So it says that the third also isn't true.

I am not sure how far to stretch this idea.

Maybe he [her hamster] was still creeped out by the guy with the knife last night. Understandable, because that would make two of us. (Evanovich, Explosive Eighteen, page 90)

Morelli was the only one I knew who had a worse job than I did. Okay, maybe the guy at the mortuary who drains out body fluids was also in the running. (page 30)

These are not the standard form for metaphor-by-conjunction. But Evanovich is clearly using the idea.

In Lexaphors

Conjunction can also be used to enhance a lexaphor. This is a different use of metaphor-by-conjunction.

I could feel her as she stepped closer, her disdain falling around me like ashes.

That's a lexaphor – disdain cannot fall. To enhance the lexaphor, add an item that can fall:

I could feel her as she stepped closer, her perfume and disdain falling around me like ashes.

That clarifies how the disdain is falling – as perfume would.

That isn't the best example; a better example:

1. They were covered with glory.
2. They were covered in dirt and glory. (Source unknown.)