29 December 2006


Before he became beloved of lefty bloggers like me for talking about the metaphorical dimension of American political rhetoric and thinking, George Lakoff was one of the most prominent cognitive linguists in the biz, well-known among the folks who know about cognative linguistics as The Metaphor Guy who wrote Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. It's a chewy and fascinating book.

I recently thought of Lakoff when I discovered that the Marvel Database Wiki helpfully organizes Marvel Comics characters into types:

  • Aliens
  • Animals
  • Clones
  • Cosmic Beings
  • Cyborgs
  • Deities
  • Demons
  • Mutants
  • Robots
  • Time Travelers
  • Vampires
I note that Spider-Man, a true original, fits into none of these categories.

The Marvel list is, however, only my third-most-favourite list of categories in the world. The second is the three major divisions at Del Monte canned goods.

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Tomatoes
Most satisfyingly, I learned about this by talking to a woman who, it turns out, was the executive assistant to the Vice President of Tomatoes.

My mostest favouritest is, of course, from Jorge Luis Borges' story “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins,” which describes the Chinese encyclopædia Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge offering the following types of animals.

  1. those that belong to the Emperor,
  2. embalmed ones,
  3. those that are trained,
  4. suckling pigs,
  5. mermaids,
  6. fabulous ones,
  7. stray dogs,
  8. those included in the present classification,
  9. those that tremble as if they were mad,
  10. innumerable ones,
  11. those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
  12. others,
  13. those that have just broken a flower vase,
  14. those that from a long way off look like flies.
A number of bloggers organize their blogrolls into these categories. Mmmm.

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