Jennifer Tsai 486120319
I want to discuss some elements of signs, metaphors, and metonyms in structuralism through a print advertisement of Nike.
The concept of signs was proposed by Ferdinand de Saussure, the father of modern linguistics, saying that signs were made up of two parts: one is the signifier (the form which the sign uses), and the other is the signified (the concept it represents). The signifier is something that we can see, hear, touch, smell or taste. The signified is the concept or idea that the sign wants to convey. For example, when we see the written form ¡§ rose¡¨, the form is the signifier and the concept we come up about the ¡§ rose¡¨ is the signified. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is like two sides of a piece of paper. However, Saussure stated that there is no natural link between the two elements, and the relationship is conventional.
The metaphor expresses the unfamiliar idea or concept by using the familiar vehicle. It is the use of words to express something different from its literal meaning by not using ¡§ as¡¨ or ¡§ like¡¨. For example, she is my angel. The metaphor is used to present something more abstract; therefore, it requires more interpretative efforts. On the other hand, the metonymy is used to indicate a part standing for the whole thing (Chandler 1994). The metonymy is applied to a visible object which represents some invisible idea. For example, the Hollywood in California represents movies(Chandler 1994).
The example that I use is a print advertisement of Nike. The advertisement shows a woman wearing a Nike product sweating. The face of the woman is only half seen and she sweats a lot. There is a slogan saying,¡¨ This is my No.5 perfume¡¨ in Chinese under the face of the woman in the ad. They relationship between the signifier, signified, metaphor, and metonymy is pretty complicated. First, No.5 perfume is the metonym of Chanal¡¦s famous No.5 perfume. According to the long-held convention, Chanal¡¦s No.5 perfume stands for beauty and elegance. That is, No.5 perfume is the sign meaning elegance and glamour. The No.5 perfume in the ad refers to the sweat shown from the woman¡¦s body. So, the written form¡¨ No.5 perfume¡¨ is the metaphor of the sweat. The sweat (signifier)+ the elegance that No.5 stands for (signified)=the sweat is beauty and charming (sign). Moreover, the sign that the sweat is beauty and charming is used as a metaphor to express the message of advertisement of encouraging woman to do exercise. The sweat from exercising can serve the same function as the Chanal No.5 perfume does. That is, the sweat, like the perfume, can make women charming, fresh, and energetic.
The main message of the advertisement is to encourage woman to exercise more. It uses multiple combinations to express its idea. Instead of telling you that how many advantages you will get from exercise, it expresses from a woman¡¦s perspective. Using the long-held convention that Chanal No.5 perfume builds, and it relates the elegance of the perfume to the sweat of a woman after exercising. Not only the ad uses the techniques of signs and metaphors, but also gives out a very symbolic message of women¡¦s self-awakening. It means that women should get involved in the long male-dominated activity and really take advantage from it. It is a symbol showing that women can also do it and they can do it beautifully.
However, it raises a question of how to identify the differences between the signifier and the metaphor, the signifier and the symbol, or the metaphor and metonymy. There is no definite line between these elements, and the ling is getting unclear. If metonymy can be used to something visible which represents something related invisible, can the metonymy equal to the symbol? According to an example brought up by (Fiske& Hartley, in Chandler 1994), the hand of a mother holing breakfast cereal is the metaphor for the love and security she provides. Then why Chandler defines a mother is the metonymy for motherhood?
Chandler, Daniel. ¡§Semiotics for Beginners.¡¨ 1994. On-line.
Nike. Advertisement. Advertising Magazine November, 1999:72