Did you know that, typically, we use at least one metaphor every six to ten seconds?
As a reader and writer, I confess I love metaphors, similes, and analogies because they're way more interesting than adverbs and adjectives. I mean, I'd rather have "she ran off like a frightened sheep" than "she ran very fast", wouldn't you?
As a literary translator, I struggle often with these figures of speech because of cultural specificities that can get lost. Also, regardless of the original language, we all bring our own biases, emotions, and perceptions to the same figures of speech. This week, for example, I translated a few dialogue-heavy scenes from rich, dialectical Gujarati. Naturally, there were a lot of metaphors, similes, analogies. And, given that the scenes were set in the 1920s, they were also from a time when deep gender, class, and caste hierarchies were accepted as the norm. So that added to the usual challenges of how to stay true to the text and yet make it all meaningful to a contemporary reader. With apologies to Shakespeare: to translate or to transliterate, that is the question. ;)
Aside from all of the above, though, in my everyday life, I'm way more aware of the figures of speech I use because of what it does to my emotional energies. During my corporate years, we used a lot of competitive metaphors and similes related to sports and war. I was never comfortable about making everything about winning-losing, living-dying, and such. Susan Sontag's canonical book, Illness as Metaphor, called for getting rid of the military metaphor altogether when speaking of cancer. More recently, we've seen, heard, and read how media folks have been using such language for the global pandemic.
In everyday conversation, there's something to be said for using "clean language" to reframe how we think about events and approach challenges in our lives. Here's a little video about it.