What does 'explanatory foil' mean?

Ortony's construct of linguistic metaphor (1975) as an explanatory foil.

Article: 'Meaning and visual metaphor' by Hermine Feinstein

  • 1
    I think that adding more context as well as attaching the source you got this quote from can help you significantly reduce the time you must wait for the answer. Dec 20, 2018 at 6:35
  • Maybe just adding source: jstor.org/stable/1319679?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
    – Flonne
    Dec 20, 2018 at 7:34
  • I read this article. It is interesting what is 'FOIL' here for native speaker.
    – Vitaly
    Dec 20, 2018 at 10:36
  • @Vitaly When Michael asked for more context, he means context of the sentence (i.e. what is relevant to the meaning of the words) and not context of your question (i.e. that you were reading an article). While context about your question can be helpful, context about the sentence is much more helpful.
    – Tashus
    Dec 20, 2018 at 16:52
  • You need to read Ortony's work. There are many interpretations of what metaphors actually are.
    – Lambie
    Dec 20, 2018 at 22:02

1 Answer 1


In this context, a foil is "someone or something that serves as a contrast to another". See the third noun definition under the second entry in Merriam-Webster and the Wikipedia article.

The article will discuss Langer's thesis by drawing comparisons with Ortony's construct of linguistic metaphor (whatever that is). The differences between the two will facilitate the discussion.

For simplicity, let's call Langer's thesis "Thing One" and Ortony's construct of linguistic metaphor "Thing Two".

In other words, Thing One is different from Thing Two, and discussing these differences can help us understand Thing One. When we do this, we are using Thing Two as a foil to Thing One. Since we are using this foil to explain Thing One, we can call Thing Two an explanatory foil.

  • I don't understand fully. Probably it has to read another article A.Ortony 'Metaphor and Thought' to understand what it means.
    – Vitaly
    Dec 20, 2018 at 20:16
  • @Vitaly "Foil" has a standard definition that does not depend on any of the articles in this specific case.
    – Tashus
    Dec 20, 2018 at 20:37
  • @Vitaly I hope my edits will help clarify.
    – Tashus
    Dec 20, 2018 at 20:43
  • I see. So it can be replaced by "explanatory contrast"?
    – Vitaly
    Dec 21, 2018 at 6:28
  • @vitaly similar. A foil has a more deliberate connotation. See the added Wikipedia link.
    – Tashus
    Dec 21, 2018 at 12:50

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