A complex metaphor is similar to a telescoped metaphor.
Examples and Observations:
- "At least three of the four simple metaphors for intensity seem to characterize this complex metaphor [ANGER IS A HOT FLUID IN A CONTAINER]: HEAT, QUANTITY, and SPEED. If we lose our cool, we become very angry; anger welling up in someone indicates less intense anger than anger coming over or overcoming someone; and a person flaring up is more intensely angry than someone doing a slow burn. But maybe the fourth intensity metaphor also plays a role in this anger metaphor. For instance, an outburst of anger indicates very intense anger as well as the forcefulness of the outbreak. Be that as it may, the point is that the extremely simple local metaphors that are based on basic correlations in human experience jointly apply to this complex metaphor and make it a very natural conceptual metaphor for anger.
"This situation shows very clearly that complex metaphors are based on simple ones, which are in turn based on tight, local correlations in experience."
(Zoltán Kövecses, Metaphor in Culture: Universality and Variation. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005)
- Primary and Complex Metaphors
"Lakoff and Johnson ([Philosophy in the Flesh] 1999, 60-61) suggest that the complex metaphor A PURPOSEFUL LIFE IS A JOURNEY is composed of the following cultural belief (reformulated here as two propositions) and two primary metaphors:
PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE PURPOSES IN LIFEWhereas the two primary metaphors (PURPOSES ARE DESTINATIONS and ACTIONS ARE MOTIONS), based on common bodily experience, are likely to be universal, the complex metaphor (A PURPOSEFUL LIFE IS A JOURNEY) is less so. This is because its validity in a particular culture depends on this culture's holding the combination of the two propositions (PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE PURPOSES IN LIFE and PEOPLE SHOULD ACT SO AS TO ACHIEVE THEIR PURPOSES) and the two primary metaphors, as listed above."
PEOPLE SHOULD ACT SO AS TO ACHIEVE THEIR PURPOSES
PURPOSES ARE DESTINATIONS
ACTIONS ARE MOTIONS
(Ning Yu, "Metaphor From Body and Culture." The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought, ed. by Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr. Cambridge University Press, 2008)
- Complex Metaphors and Moral Discourse
"For those of us interested in how moral discourse works, a fascinating aspect of this complex metaphor system begins to emerge when we notice that expressions used to talk and think about how people interact morally often include words from the monetary or marketing domains. The expression, 'She owed me an apology and she finally gave it to me,' implies that I have gained some kind of moral and social capital in the interaction. This is how moral action and causality is often conceptualized, in terms of financial transaction or commodity exchange."
(Bonnie Howe, Because You Bear This Name: Conceptual Metaphor And the Moral Meaning of 1 Peter. Brill, 2006)
- Telescoped Metaphors
"The telescoped metaphor . . . probably takes its name from the way in which pocket telescopes pull out from themselves when we extend their concentric tubes. . . . It's a complex, permutating metaphor whose vehicle becomes the tenor for the next metaphor, and that second tenor gives rise to a vehicle which, in turn, becomes the tenor of the next vehicle."
(Jack E. Myers and Don C. Wukasch, Dictionary of Poetic Terms. Univ. of North Texas Press, 2003)