The Nage people of the eastern Indonesian island of Flores refer to someone who begins something but is regularly distracted by other matters as a dog pissing at the edge of a path. In this first comprehensive study of animal metaphors in a non-Western society, Gregory Forth focuses on how the Nage understand metaphor and use their knowledge of animals to shape specific expressions. Based on extensive field research, A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path explores the meaning and use of over 560 animal metaphors employed by the Nage. Investigating how closely their indigenous concept of pata pele corresponds to the Greek-derived English concept of metaphor, Forth demonstrates that the Nage people understand these figures of speech in the same way as Westerners - namely as conventional ways of speaking about people and objects, not expressions of an essential identity between their animal vehicles and human referents. Theoretically engaging with anthropology's recent ontological turn, the book considers whether metaphors reveal significant differences in conceptions of human-animal relations, the human-animal contrast, and human understanding of other humans in different parts of the world. An incredible catalogue of animal-based linguistic art and Nage verbal conventions, A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path illuminates essential features of metaphorical thought everywhere.
A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path directly addresses some of the excesses of cultural relativism in anthropology, schools of thought that overemphasize differences between societies at the cost of understanding the commonalities that link them. It makes an important contribution to ethnozoology and the study of metaphor. Scott Simon, University of Ottawa