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March 8, 2011 / theoldsilly

Professor Old Silly Tutorial Tuesday – Ever Metaphor You Didn’t Like?

Welcome back to Bloggyversity, English Comp Class 10001.3b, “Writing With Power in Fiction”. Have a seat, as in pronto, por favor. I need your total and immediate attention. We are, as usual, on a maximum 5 minute blog-hoppers’ attention span time limit. Plus I have a very important luncheon date with the lovely Ms. Flanders in just a few minutes, so …  desist with the silly shenanigans, turn off your ipods, cell phones, black and/or raspberries, stop with the twittering, get your faces out of Facebook, boot up your monitors, adjust your undies, scoot your bums into your seats and be still. If you’re especially good little devils, I have some fresh-baked “Devil’s Food Fudge White Chocolate Chip Cookies” for you all after class, courtesy once again of Ms. Flanders … god bless her.

Now then. Thank you. Today we’ll discuss the similarities of similes and metaphors, and their distinct differences and functions. Both are literary comparisons, but the simile compares one thing “as if” or “like” it is another, while the metaphorical comparison is a statement of fundamental sameness. For instance …

“A good book is like a good meal,” is a simile, and …

“A good book is good food for the mind,” is a metaphor.

Similes and metaphors add flavour and a sense of poetry to your prose. Used properly and with some cleverness and creativity, they add a panache to the writing that would otherwise not be there. But be careful that the comparisons you make are appropriate, otherwise you can come off as rather sophomoric in your attempts to wax poetic whilst you pen your tale.

Some examples of reasonable similes are:

The raging wind blew as if it were a madman wailing in despair.

To the imprisoned man’s increased angst, the damn clock on the wall ticked like some angry carpenter driving spikes into concrete.

The highway on this godforsaken night was like a paved pathway to hell.

Let’s now take those same similes and convert them to metaphors … see if they still work as comparisons that now are requred to mate equals.

The raging wind was a madman wailing in despair.

To the imprisoned man’s increased angst, the damn ticking clock on the wall was an angry carpenter driving spikes into concrete.

The highway on this godforsaken night was a paved pathway to hell.

What do you think? The first and last examples work for me, but the second one … I can’t accept a ticking clock on the wall being an angry carpenter. The comparison is too farfetched, lacking in enough quintessential sameness to warrant the metaphor.

Let’s look at one more example and then we’ll dismiss blog.

Charlie Sheen’s statements in reaction to being fired by Warner Brothers were as cutting and spiteful as a machete slicing and slashing with devastation through the  bright, verdant fields of a promising future.

There are two literary comparisons in that sentence. Which one is a simile, and which one is a metaphor?

Okay we’ll dismiss blog now, leave your answers on my comments desk, have a great day, class, and – oh!

Help yourself to these cookies … Devil’s Food Fudgle White Chocolate Chip like you just don’t get every day! Just don’t overdo it, now … we don’t want to eat like little piggies, hmm? (wink)

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  1. John Standish / Mar 8 2011 7:59 am

    The “statements … cutting and spiteful as a machete slicing” is the simile, and “verdant fields of a promising future” is the metaphor, right? Am I right? Do I get an extra cookie? (Snort, snort)

    LOL, good class, Prof, and I love your clever use of a timely and “Sheening” example. 😉

    • theoldsilly / Mar 8 2011 11:04 am

      Glad you like the “Sheening” bit, lol. And yes, you may have an extra cookit. Hey – just one! 😉

  2. Elizabeth Spann Craig / Mar 8 2011 9:08 am

    Thanks for the tutorial, Marvin! 🙂 Well done, as always.

  3. Cactus Annie / Mar 8 2011 9:55 am

    Thanks for the class, the examples were very clear. Love the play on words in the post title, tehee, and the Charlie Sheen thingy too.

    Now to enjoy my cookies – thanks! 🙂

    • theoldsilly / Mar 9 2011 7:18 am

      Thanks, Cactus – you’re one of the few who noticed (or commented, lol) on that. 😉

  4. Stanley Berber / Mar 8 2011 10:54 am

    Metaphor you didn’t “like”!? Lol, I get it. 😉

    Good class, and many thanks to Ms. Flanders – hey, don’t get too fresh with her, Old Silly!

    • theoldsilly / Mar 8 2011 11:05 am

      Aha – I see SOMEone is an astute student today, lol.

  5. Carolyn Howard-Johnson / Mar 8 2011 11:00 am

    Did you know that The New Yorker runs little fillers on very mixed metaphors in finds. Some of them are a hoot. A recent one came form The New York Times.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Blogging editing tips at

    • theoldsilly / Mar 8 2011 11:06 am

      HoJo, no I didn’t know that – will have to check it out. Thanks for dropping by today! 🙂

  6. Thelma Banks / Mar 8 2011 1:23 pm

    Thanks for making this clearer for me, Prof – I should have paid more attention in school, lol!

    Oh and say thanks to Ms. Flamders too … YUM! Can you get her to give us the recipe? 😉

    • theoldsilly / Mar 8 2011 1:25 pm

      Hmm – post the recipes too? I’ll see what I can do … 😉

  7. Marcus Franks / Mar 8 2011 1:32 pm

    These classes are beacons of light. Illuminating the illiterate like rays of enlightenment! 😉

    • theoldsilly / Mar 9 2011 7:18 am

      My my – aren’t WE eaxing poetic! 😉

  8. tashabud / Mar 8 2011 2:31 pm

    I think I now understand the clear difference between simile and metaphor from your examples. But when I say, “The cookies tasted heavenly,” is this considered a metaphor?

    I’m definitely bookmarking this one, Prof. Old Silly.

    • theoldsilly / Mar 8 2011 2:51 pm

      Mmm, no, in that instance, ‘heavenly’ is an adverb to the verb ‘tasted’. If you say, “The cookies tased like heaven,” then you have a simile, and if you stated, “These cookies are heaven!” Then you’d have a metaphor. Make sense now? 😉

  9. Alex J. Cavanaugh / Mar 8 2011 2:57 pm

    Good comparisons. Don’t think I use either very often though.

  10. Barbra Kelser / Mar 8 2011 3:25 pm

    Cool the way your examples so clearly illustrate your writing lessons, Old Silly. Even not being a writer, as a reader and novel lover, this stuff is fascinating to me. Thanks!

  11. tashabud / Mar 8 2011 3:47 pm

    I definitely get it now, Prof. Old Silly. Your illustration makes perfect sense to me. I wish I had you for an English teacher way back when… Tehe.

    Have a great week,

    • theoldsilly / Mar 8 2011 4:01 pm

      Wouldn’t THAT have been something! LOL – Glad it makes sense to you now, sweetie! 😉

  12. yvonne lewis / Mar 9 2011 3:44 am

    Many thanks for the class, I think I took it all in.
    Most enjoyable .


  13. L. Diane Wolfe / Mar 9 2011 8:55 am

    I need to try that conversion thing!

  14. Hilary / Mar 9 2011 12:07 pm

    Hi Marvin .. I agree with you re the clock .. especially driving spikes into concrete?! You could use the machete to carve and slice up the choccy cookies – they’ll go further! I fancy one or two .. cheers – good class – and explanations .. Hilary

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