NTs taking metaphors literally Vs ASD people doing the same

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Joe90
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16 Jul 2021, 6:00 pm

It says everywhere that it's an Aspie thing to take an unfamiliar metaphor literally, but I think everyone typically takes a metaphor literally if they're unfamiliar with that particular metaphor.

For example me and my NT boyfriend had an appointment (won't go into detail), and he didn't want them to know that he is unemployed, and he stressed about it and made me swear I wouldn't let anything slip. When we had got home after the appointment, I said, "see, I didn't let the cat out of the bag!" He looked at me confused and said, "what cat?" So I said that it was just a figure of speech and explained what it meant. He laughed and said he hadn't heard that one before.

But I often read that it's only people on the spectrum who takes a metaphor literally that is unfamiliar to them. But nobody is born knowing all the metaphors that ever existed, and not everyone learns every metaphor in childhood. NTs aren't savant mind-readers like a lot of Aspies think they are.
And I could tell my boyfriend was actually thinking of a cat when I said it, as there are a lot of cats in our neighbourhood and he looked towards the window before I explained to him what I meant.


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naturalplastic
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16 Jul 2021, 6:30 pm

A native English speaker cant know every expression. And the "Cat out of the bag" (which oddly enough is semantic twins with "buying a pig a poke") is based on a thing from another century. Back in Mideaval England folks would scam you by "selling you a pig hidden in a bag/poke". And afterward you would see that the "pig" was just a stray cat. But sometimes the scammer couldnt control the squirming animal, and would inadvertently "let the cat out of the bag" - foiling the scam.

Today most English speakers around the world dont know all of that history. So the expression actually has no intrinsic meaning...UNLESS...they grew up hearing folks say it in the right context. So most English speakers know what the metaphoric meaning is, and dont need to know the historic origin to get it. So its all or nothing. You get it or you dont even if your NT- depending on whether or not you heard elders or TV personalities use the expression.

But some expression you can "get" just through imagination.

There was a person on WP who just could not grasp "dont count your chickens before they hatch".

I have never lived on a farm. But to me its a vivid image. I can imagine being a farmer. I get x number of eggs. And I assume that they ALL will hatch and become meaty healthy adult chickens that I can sell, and then...I might get carried away ... and plan uses for the money I will get from selling said chickens (vacation trips, whatever). But I get a rude awakening when half of the eggs dont even hatch at all. And then some the chickens grow up to be scrawny, and so on.

No more vacation.

So I can use that as a metaphor for non farm things... a pay raise, or a promotion, I hope to get, or whatever.

But some autistics cant make those metaphoric leaps.



ezbzbfcg2
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16 Jul 2021, 6:37 pm

Regardless of the origin, letting the cat out of the bag is a fairly well known and often used metaphor in American English. While we can't know every metaphor, that one is fairly commonplace and most middle-aged+ people would know it.



naturalplastic
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17 Jul 2021, 5:22 am

ezbzbfcg2 wrote:
Regardless of the origin, letting the cat out of the bag is a fairly well known and often used metaphor in American English. While we can't know every metaphor, that one is fairly commonplace and most middle-aged+ people would know it.


Thanks for repeating what I just said without making any additional point!

My point was that (a)the origin of the expression is an interesting aside- so forget about that, and (b)there are expressions that even a foreigner could figure out, and that there are other expressions that no one could figure out if they hadnt heard the expression before, and that (c) "Cat out of the bag" is one of the latter (cryptic in todays world), while other expressions (like dont count your chickens) are the former (metaphors that NTs can figure out with ease). And that (D) even NTs (like an Immigrant from a nonEnglish speaking country)might have trouble with the cat/bag expression, but having trouble with the certain other noncryptic expressions may be a sign of autism. Even an immigrant from Bangladesh could probably figure out what you mean if you told them "dont count your chickens before they hatch", but the same person would have no clue about why youre talking about cats in bags.

I too am amazed that a White native born person of any English speaking country, like the OP's boyfriend, could reach adulthood without EVER having heard the Cat/bag expression. But if he never heard it then he never heard it, and therefore he would be like an immigrant- and you couldnt expect him to figure out what the expression means. So his confusion isnt really the same thing as the supposed inability of autistics to grasp metaphor.



Joe90
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17 Jul 2021, 7:34 am

I didn't know he'd never heard of the cat out the bag expression before. I've heard it before.

But if an autistic person takes an unfamiliar expression literally, it's just 'because they're autistic', even though they'd never heard of the expression before (keyword: 'unfamiliar').

If an NT takes an unfamiliar expression literally, it's 'because they have never heard of it before'.


But some Aspies might argue that if an NT has never heard of an expression before they'll still know that you are using a metaphor and instead of taking it literally they will ask "what does that mean?"
But they usually do take an unfamiliar metaphor literally, and this isn't the only time I have heard an NT take an expression literally if they'd never heard it before.

And surely once an Aspie adult is familiar with an expression they won't necessarily take it literally?


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naturalplastic
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17 Jul 2021, 8:50 am

As I said before:the difference is in the expression itself. If the metaphor stands as a metaphor in a different time and place from its origin then it should be decipherable to most adults.

Most native speakers of English (including me until very recently) know the Cat/bag expression just from aping others using the expression. Not because they understand what the metaphor refers to. So someone who has never heard the expression before could not POSSIBLY figure out what the expression means. We dont live in Elizabethan England, and dont encounter folks selling us pigs in bags anymore. So how could your bf possible figure out what you meant? So its not really an issue of taking things literally.

in contrast...

Lets say your bf heard you quote the Bible passage that says "God makes the sun rise on both the good and upon the evil, and makes rain fall upon both the just and upon the unjust" he should be able to figure out that that passage means something along the lines of "good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people, and like that...". And that rain is metaphor for misfortune, and sunshine for good fortune. Unlike pigs in pokes we still have rain and sunshine. So we can still relate to them as metaphors. So a person who takes it literally- as being about weather conditions- would have to be mentally impaired- and possibly autistic. Not the same thing as with the cat/bag expression.



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17 Jul 2021, 9:18 am

naturalplastic wrote:
...So a person who takes it literally- as being about weather conditions- would have to be mentally impaired- and possibly autistic.


Degree in mathematics - check
Degree in physics - check
Published author - check
Self taught poly-linguist - check
Member of Mensa - check
Mentally impaired - apparently, as I thought it was about the weather...

Oh well, five out of six. Seriously, I did think it was about the weather. Fact is, when people are talking about God/Bible, I just assume that anything they say that doesn't make sense to me is because it's 'miraculous' or because 'God can do anything'. So, when someone with that mindset suggests that, "God makes the sun rise on both the good and upon the evil..." I figured they meant that if He wanted to, he could allow the sun to rise for you but not on me (for instance) precisely because He can do anything - but He doesn't. He let's it rise for both of us. It seemed kind of silly to me, but much of what people say seems silly to me - particularly when it comes to religious talk.

naturalplastic wrote:
Not the same thing as with the cat/bag expression.


Having never actually seen a cat in a bag - coupled with the fact that no one in the room is asking for clarification, tips me off that this one is not to be taken literally. In fact, that's how I typically determine that something is a figure of speech.



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17 Jul 2021, 9:55 am

The difference is autistic people may have a much harder time deciphering what metaphors they've never heard before mean. Even if you get something is a "metaphor" it's possible to still struggle with "getting" what it means. I can decipher them now, but that's after years of Googling the meanings of common ones and having my peers look at me incredulously over the fact I don't immediately "get" things like that, since they were able to figure those things out much easier than me.

And no, your experience with one NT not getting one metaphor doesn't mean some autistic people don't have this issue.


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naturalplastic
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17 Jul 2021, 10:33 am

AngelL wrote:
naturalplastic wrote:
...So a person who takes it literally- as being about weather conditions- would have to be mentally impaired- and possibly autistic.


Degree in mathematics - check
Degree in physics - check
Published author - check
Self taught poly-linguist - check
Member of Mensa - check
Mentally impaired - apparently, as I thought it was about the weather...

Oh well, five out of six. Seriously, I did think it was about the weather. Fact is, when people are talking about God/Bible, I just assume that anything they say that doesn't make sense to me is because it's 'miraculous' or because 'God can do anything'. So, when someone with that mindset suggests that, "God makes the sun rise on both the good and upon the evil..." I figured they meant that if He wanted to, he could allow the sun to rise for you but not on me (for instance) precisely because He can do anything - but He doesn't. He let's it rise for both of us. It seemed kind of silly to me, but much of what people say seems silly to me - particularly when it comes to religious talk.

naturalplastic wrote:
Not the same thing as with the cat/bag expression.


Having never actually seen a cat in a bag - coupled with the fact that no one in the room is asking for clarification, tips me off that this one is not to be taken literally. In fact, that's how I typically determine that something is a figure of speech.

Well... I rest may case. Youre autistic! What can I say? The fact youre mentally enhanced in some ways doesnt negate the possibilty that you could also be mentally impaired in other ways. Sorry if I come off as being blunt.

However ...if it makes you feel better- many fervent Christians either dont know, or dont understand the passage either- as evidenced by the fact that they think that God does things like "punish America with hurricanes because we legalized abortion". To me the passage is rather clear that God wouldnt operate that way-if he existed.

But I give you credit for doing what I, and everyone else does,...which is to figure out when things are "a figure of speech"by checking out the behavior of others in the room. Joe's bf only had her, and himself in the room unfortunately, so he couldnt take cues from other folks in the room.



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17 Jul 2021, 11:16 am

naturalplastic wrote:
Sorry if I come off as being blunt.


No worries, but I'm glad you said it anyway. Typically, I'm not emotionally involved with how other people speak to me - the exception being if I think I may be in danger from them, something that is unlikely to happen online. That said though, I'm grateful you attributed it to being blunt because I often can't determine what is blunt and what is hostility. Blunt is something I can value; hostility is something I'll walk away from - once I finally figure out which it is. So letting me know saved me some steps - thanks!

naturalplastic wrote:
But I give you credit for doing what I, and everyone else does,...which is to figure out when things are "a figure of speech"by checking out the behavior of others in the room. Joe's bf only had her, and himself in the room unfortunately, so he couldnt take cues from other folks in the room.


Agreed. I spent my career as a professional poker player - it was waaaay preferable to having to work for someone else. Anyway, I retired at world-class skill level. I starred in my own infomercial (Because you too deserve to be a winning poker player....), wrote for the industry rags, published a book on the game, had a poker school, etc. I mention all that to lend credence to the following statement and tie it to yours: I couldn't play head-up.

I decide the correct action to take when it becomes my turn in a poker game by accessing, collecting, and collating a huge amount of information. Much of that information is based on the player's behavior and interaction with others. If there is no 'others' for them to interact with, I'm flying blind. When I taught at my poker school I used to share the following example to give people an idea of how to apply this at the poker table:

I'm playing No-Limit Texas Hold'em at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. A tourist sits down to play and his significant other sits behind him to watch. For the next couple of hours he shows her every hand he chooses to play. He hides his cards from the other player when he shows her, but he is keeping her engaged because as soon as she gets bored, she's going to want to leave and his "Las Vegas poker experience" is going to be cut short. A couple of hours later, she's getting antsy and his time is running out - he notices it too. Suddenly he peeks at his cards and shoves. "All-in" he declares.

At this point I'm acting it out for my class because it's kind of funny how obvious it is if you know what to look for. He's rigid as a board. His posture has never been this good, I'm betting. His S.O. taps him on the shoulder. He doesn't move a muscle - or acknowledge her. She taps his arm again, harder this time, leans in and whispers, "What do you have?" He 'shushes' her; "In a sec," he says as he's staring me down just daring me to call.

Easy call. Almost doesn't matter what I have. In fact, if I have very, very little, I might raise to scare anyone left to act out of the pot cause I want the tourist all to myself. Why? Because this guys behavior has been predictable right up until NOW. He's played only solid hands - at least the ones I've seen at showdown, and the ones I haven't seen - well his frequency of playing hands versus folding hands is consistent with someone only playing solid hands - albeit somewhat unimaginatively. He's also ALWAYS showed his S.O. his hands...right up until now. Since he's always shown his hand to her before AND he's always played solid hands before, that's a pretty strong indication that he's hiding something. Like, he just pushed in $600 on a bluff and can't afford to show her because when her eyes dart from the cards to the flop and back again with a confused look on her face...the other players will know something is amiss. Plus, if she's quicker than that, she's going to realize that he just bet the price of that new washing machine he keeps saying they can't afford - ON A BLUFF! And that will be obvious to the rest of the table as well...which is why he didn't show her.

Anyway, without his interaction with her to go off of, I would have folded.



Joe90
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17 Jul 2021, 12:06 pm

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Joe's bf only had her, and himself in the room unfortunately, so he couldnt take cues from other folks in the room.


I love it when Aspies here grab at excuses to deny that NTs sometimes do experience social misunderstandings instead of just admitting it. :lmao:

Sorry if I haven't articulated that sentence very well, I'm not very good at explaining things unless I use examples.


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naturalplastic
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17 Jul 2021, 12:10 pm

Joe90 wrote:
Quote:
Joe's bf only had her, and himself in the room unfortunately, so he couldnt take cues from other folks in the room.


I love it when Aspies here grab at excuses to deny that NTs sometimes do experience social misunderstandings instead of just admitting it. :lmao:

Sorry if I haven't articulated that sentence very well, I'm not very good at explaining things unless I use examples.





My point is that NT DO often often moments of social misunderstanding.

What the hell are you talking about?



Last edited by naturalplastic on 17 Jul 2021, 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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17 Jul 2021, 12:12 pm

Of course they do….they’re only human :wink:



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17 Jul 2021, 12:16 pm

Joe90 wrote:
Quote:
Joe's bf only had her, and himself in the room unfortunately, so he couldnt take cues from other folks in the room.


I love it when Aspies here grab at excuses to deny that NTs sometimes do experience social misunderstandings instead of just admitting it. :lmao:

Sorry if I haven't articulated that sentence very well, I'm not very good at explaining things unless I use examples.

No one's denied that. NTs sometimes having social misunderstandings doesn't negate the fact that people with ASD often have those same misunderstandings with more frequency and severity, and for different reasons. :lol:

What's the point of this thread if you're going to get snarky over people actually discussing it?


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I use he/him pronouns.

I like playing video games, watching cartoons and anime, reading, and cooking.

I have two cats, a rabbit, and a dog. I also enjoy learning + cataloguing information about different types of animals and plants.

Empathy Quotient: 34/80
Systemizing Quotient: 104/150
Friendship Quotient: 56/140
Autism Quotient: 36/80

RAADS-R: 169

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Your broader autism cluster (Aspie) score: 144 of 200.
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You are very likely on the broader autism cluster (Aspie).


Joe90
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17 Jul 2021, 1:46 pm

HeroOfHyrule wrote:
Joe90 wrote:
Quote:
Joe's bf only had her, and himself in the room unfortunately, so he couldnt take cues from other folks in the room.


I love it when Aspies here grab at excuses to deny that NTs sometimes do experience social misunderstandings instead of just admitting it. :lmao:

Sorry if I haven't articulated that sentence very well, I'm not very good at explaining things unless I use examples.

No one's denied that. NTs sometimes having social misunderstandings doesn't negate the fact that people with ASD often have those same misunderstandings with more frequency and severity, and for different reasons. :lol:

What's the point of this thread if you're going to get snarky over people actually discussing it?


Because I have a habit of writing a thread before thinking, I suppose.


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AngelL
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17 Jul 2021, 2:32 pm

Joe90 wrote:
Because I have a habit of writing a thread before thinking, I suppose.


~raises hand~ Member of that club, too. Thanks for the honesty. Serving it with a side dish of self-awareness was a nice touch. :)