Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hot Coffee and Book Reviews with George Lakoff

Last week I saw the movie “Hot Coffee” and was pleasantly surprised that George Lakoff made a couple of appearances. It was a very entertaining, informative and thought-provoking documentary with plenty of discussion about the role language plays in the legal system and in political advertising campaigns. It rates ʌ ʌ in my book (2 carets up).

Here is a summary from IMDb:

Most people think they know the "McDonald's coffee case," but what they don't know is that corporations have spent millions distorting the case to promote tort reform. HOT COFFEE reveals how big business, aided by the media, brewed a dangerous concoction of manipulation and lies to protect corporate interests. By following four people whose lives were devastated by the attacks on our courts, the film challenges the assumptions Americans hold about "jackpot justice."
For those unfamiliar with George Lakoff, he is a well-known Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He has taught there since 1972 and previously taught at Harvard (1965-69) and the University of Michigan (1969-1972). In linguistics, he is most associated with his work on metaphor and human thinking.

Two of Lakoff's academic books that I have read and highly recommend (2 carets up each) are: "Metaphors We Live By" written with Mark Johnson and "Women, Fire and Dangerous Things".

Here are the summaries from George Lakoff's website:

People use metaphors every time they speak. Some of those metaphors are literary – devices for making thoughts more vivid or entertaining. But most are much more basic than that – they’re “metaphors we live by”, metaphors we use without even realizing we’re using them. In this book, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson suggest that these basic metaphors not only affect the way we communicate ideas, but actually structure our perceptions and understandings from the beginning. Bringing together the perspectives of linguistics and philosophy, Lakoff and Johnson offer an intriguing and surprising guide to some of the most common metaphors and what they can tell us about the human mind.

Focusing on studies of how humans categorize objects and ideas, this classic cognitive science book examines the new understanding of human thought which proposes that human reason is imaginative, metaphorical, and intrinsically linked with the human body.

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