A flea in the ear and a louse over the liver: Idiomatic expressions of insects and other small animals located inside the human body

Uwe Kjær Nissen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Within the study of zoomorphization, animal metaphors in which humans are compared to
(certain characteristics of) animals, such as “You are a bitch”, have been discussed widely in
the literature on figurative language; however, only very few studies have considered metaphors where animals actually invade, or reside in, the human body. This article presents a catalogue of ‘animal-in-the-body’-metaphors in various European languages in which insects
and small animals are the protagonists. By means of this cross-linguistic analysis the article explores how, depending on the language in question, the same animal used in the figurative expressions may evoke similar or different emotional interpretations. Also, the motivation for these specific metaphors is pursued: What are the reasons for their existence? Finally, the relation between the metaphors in question and their experiential basis is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRASK – International journal of language and communication
Volume53
Pages (from-to)63-78
ISSN0909-8976
Publication statusPublished - 10. Jun 2021

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