The Bruce Willis of sandwiches: the Y of X is Y of Z construction on its journey towards a paragon model, as one way of achieving intersubjectivity


  • Mário Brdar University of Osijek, Croatia.



blending, XYZ construction, intersubjectivity, paragon, mapping


The present article is concerned with innovative metaphorical expressions with proper nouns in a subtype of so-caled XYZ constructions, such as Is sad singleton Vladimir Putin the Jennifer Aniston of European politics?, which link relatively disparate domains and which may cause interpretation difficulties, leading to the problem known as de Saussure’s paradox. Veale (2014) believes that they are “double-edged comparisons that can cut both ways, since information inevitably flows in both directions, …. to meet in the middle to construct a blended mental image.” We argue that such constructions are better explained as metaphors based on metonymic paragon models. A closer look at these constructions reveals that they are most of the time used in discourse in such a way that the speaker provides mapping-like statements justifying the pairing of X and Y: speakers create remarkable links between disparate domains on purpose, but they also attempt, in observance of the Gricean principle of cooperation, to facilitate the processing of such expressions and deliberately explicate what seem to be underlying mappings in keeping with the maxim of quantity until supplying enough information to safeguard the interpretation of the figurative expression in the direction of what they have in mind, i.e. ensuring intersubjectivity. In light of similar constructions without any explications, which can be analyzed as based on metonymic paragon models, we realize that spelling out the reasons for the pairings of proper nouns actually seems to function as a trigger for the online creation of novel paragons or quasi-paragons, or for an ad hoc modification of existing paragons. We claim that it is actually these explications that “cut both ways,” i.e. apply to both X and Y, which means that we witness a dynamic (re)construal of meaning whereby a paragon model is strengthened or modified, or is being created.

Biografia do Autor


Mestre em Língua Portuguesa pelo Programa de Pós-Graduação em Letras Vernáculas da UFRJ. Doutorando em Língua Portuguesa pelo Programa de Pós-Graduação em Letras Vernáculas da UFRJ. Membro pesquisador do grupo GESP/UFRJ/CNPq (Grupo de Estudos Semânticos do Português).

Mário Brdar, University of Osijek, Croatia.

PhD em Linguística pela University of Zagreb (1988). Sua área de pesquisa envolve a linguística cognitiva, a linguística contrastiva, processos cognitivos como a metonímia e a
metáfora, e o léxico. É professor e pesquisador no Departamento de Inglês da Universidade de Osijek, na Croácia.


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