Living metaphors for me aren’t actually metaphors at all. They’re events, sights or occurrences which suddenly (in a flash) reveal the origin of an elaborate metaphor that has got so tired through overuse the original meaning is usually buried too deep to surface. (I got 5 dull metaphors in that last sentence.) I was walking down my street for instance when I spotted a man with a chainsaw up a plane tree pruning a branch and IN A FLASH I realised he was out on a limb.
It’s rare to spot a new living metaphor, in my experience (or at least one that’s interesting enough to collect). I disqualified all the examples people have given me on the grounds that they weren’t found in the wild, but were remembered turns of phrase without any sudden link to an event or experience. So if you catch one, please tell me about it.
Here’s one from an organ recital I went to, not knowing much about how organs work. It turns out they can involve several keyboards, stops and pedals. The organist has to switch from one set of pipes to another as the large organs in concert halls like the Royal Festival and Royal Albert Halls are actually made up of several separate smaller individual organs. Depending on the piece of music being played the organist might be using only one of them, or more. You can see when the doors covering the pipes are opened so you can tell which pipes are being used. The concert ended with the loudest crescendo I’ve ever heard, a massive wall of sound. IN A FLASH I realised the organist had pulled out all the stops.