Metaphors are part and parcel of any language. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re using them to communicate with one another.
We tell each other that we need vaccines to fight a disease, that someone gave us a warm greeting, and that some responsibilities can be hard to bear alone.
Moreover, some words we know today derive their meaning from metaphorical usage, which not only goes to show the power of metaphors but also demonstrates the ever-evolving nature of language.
For instance, when we say that Charles Darwin was the father of the theory of evolution, we understand that the word “father” is being used metaphorically and not literally.
Yet, if you look at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you will find that one of the definitions of father is the “one that originates or institutes.” This is a perfect case in point of a word whose definition has evolved due to metaphorical usage.
Another case is the word “resonate,” which gives us the expression “resonated with me.”
What does “resonated with me” mean?
When something “resonates with you,” it hits you on an emotional level because you can relate to it. It moves you and evokes a feeling of familiarity within you. On some occasions, it might even inspire you to take action. Example: What he said resonated with me. It made me rethink my past decisions.
In the above sentence, the speaker is letting us know that they related to what was said and that it affected them. It even made them go over previous decisions they had made.
Splitting the metaphorical definition from the actual definition
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the original definition of resonate is “to produce or exhibit resonance.” This might seem like we’re just passing the buck down the line, so let’s explain what is resonance.
What is resonance?
Resonance is a very curious physical phenomenon.
To understand it, there are a few things I need to explain first.
And, before you click that little “x” in the upper right corner, I promise you that this little physics lesson will be worth it. It will give so much more depth to the expression.
With that said, let’s get going.
To start with, you should know that every sound has an amplitude and a frequency. The amplitude is how high or low the sound is, but the frequency is the pitch of the sound. More precisely, when someone has a deep voice, they have a low pitch and the frequency of their voice is low. Conversely, when someone has a squeaky voice, they have a high pitch and a high frequency.
Now, the second thing you need to know is that every mechanical structure, including bridges and buildings, has what is known as a natural frequency.
What does the natural frequency signify?
Let’s say I built a small model of a building, something that is barely a meter off of the floor. Then, I put the model on a table, and I start shaking the table. The number of times I shake the table every second is the frequency.
Alright, so what will happen to the model as the table keeps shaking?
At low frequencies, nothing much will happen. The model, if built correctly, will barely budge. But, as the frequency increases, the building will start shifting more and more in reaction to the underlying table.
So far, all of this makes sense.
What comes next is the surprise.
As the frequency increases, the model will keep budging a little until suddenly it starts jerking aggressively. From the looks of it, you could swear that the whole model will topple over.
However, if you keep increasing the frequency, the model will begin to slow down again and the jerking will ease.
This is the surprising part.
You’d expect that as the frequency kept increasing, the model would keep moving faster and faster. But, that is not the case.
Instead, what scientists have found is that only when the frequency of the table shaking matches the natural frequency of the model will the jerking be at its most aggressive.
At other frequencies, both high and low, the jerking is never as aggressive as when it matches the natural frequency.
Here is a quick video that shows this phenomenon in action.
Interestingly, the process of matching the natural frequency of a body to produce maximum effect is called “resonance.”
So, when you tell someone that something “resonated with you,” you’re saying that it hit your natural frequency. And, while most things would normally not affect you, it found that sweet spot that moved you.
I think that’s beautiful.
How to use the phrase “resonated with me”
You use “resonated with me” any time you want to say that something got you emotional.
The use of sound in metaphor
One of the most powerful creations humanity has ever had to offer has been music.
It binds us and brings us together during dark times. If you attend any rally or protest, you will hear chants that are following a particular beat and rhythm.
Music also comforts us and consoles us, especially during times of hardships or sorrow. There are countless studies on the psychological benefits of music.
In fact, the first musical instrument dates back to somewhere between 37,000 and 67,000 years ago.
So, seeing as music is such a powerful part of who we are, is it any surprise that a lot of our metaphors are inspired by it?
We’ve already talked about “resonated with me.” But, there are two more common expressions that are not only inspired by music but also mean that something affected us emotionally.
To vibe with someone
The word “vibe” is short for “vibrations.” And, when you “vibe with someone,” the literal meaning is that you are both vibrating at the same frequency, creating resonance.
The metaphorical meaning of course is that you are getting along with someone.
This is also where the expression “good vibes” comes from, i.e. good vibrations.
To strike a chord with someone
When something strikes a chord with you, it leads you to agree with it and to even approve of it. In essence, if something “resonates with you,” then it “strikes a chord with you.”
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.