The tenor and the vehicle1 which mainly comprise innovative poetic metaphors are taken from different usually distant semantic fields. In the metaphor ‘the rosy fingers of dawn’, elements from nature and parts of the human body are juxtaposed and, on the surface, engender a feeling of incompatibility. Nevertheless, metaphors do make sense. To resolve this apparent incompatibility, another level of meaning relations should be referenced, a higher instance of abstraction where apparently alien meaning elements find ways to match and coincide. But rather than finding these elements fortuitously through a process of trial and error, as is suggested by some theories of interpreting metaphors, a fairly systematic method of ascending the scale of abstraction, implied in the meaning elements of the tenor as well as the vehicle, is suggested here based on a procedure of a horizontal alteration of paradigmatically cognate words. This is the way to
discover the higher level of abstraction that unites them. The mass terms vs. count terms dichotomy, or the individuated vs. the nonindividuated, will be shown to play a crucial role in this process of rendering metaphorical utterances meaningful. Components of innovative metaphors, which on an initial level of understanding seem alien or detached, can be matched and related when a higher level of abstraction is referenced. Previous metaphor theories, as will be shown below, hint at some notions of interaction between the elements that comprise metaphors. An answer is given here to two questions raised by such theories of decoding metaphors: (1) How is the process of interaction brought to fruition? and (2) Why are some meaning components of the tenor and the vehicle crucial to the interaction, whereas others play no part in it? ‘Similarity’, the traditional answer to the second question, is neither complete nor convincing. The mass-count dichotomy, unlike lowerlevel oppositions (human-inhuman, for example), appears on the highest levels of abstraction. It will be shown how a set of reconciling functions are applied to resolve the tension created by such metaphors, a process that is sometimes complex. This chapter outlines the theory behind the application of such functions and hints at its further implications for a more general theory of structure in the lexicon. The chapter reviews the useful insights, as well as the shortcomings of several theories of metaphor. The problem of predictability and various degrees of cohesion in poetic and discourse metaphors is discussed, paving the way for the main claims of the chapter where two metaphors are analyzed to demonstrate how the theory of ascending the scale of abstraction works. Finally, further ways of elaborating the theory of reconciling functions are discussed, as well as the demarcation between metaphor and nonsense in light of the proposed theory.