Monday, February 28, 2011

As Sensible as Climbing a Ladder to Look for Fish?

Okay, the actual metaphor is "as sensible as climbing a tree to look for fish". Apologies, I didn't have enough paper to draw a tree. But you get the drift.

A metaphor is a phrase that, when well crafted, uses one thing to mean another. It puts things into a clear picture... sorta like in a nutshell (sorry). They carry a lot of power and allow a writer to use fewer words – to better effect. Note: This post used to be three pages long.

An analogy is another technique. It shows how two different things are similar. In demonstration, here are my favorites from a funny analogy competition: 1) "He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree." 2) "The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease," and 3) "It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools." Okay, one more, 4) "She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef." (For the full list go here.)

Words are both fun and a challenge. Set out to write a metaphor or analogy and you'll discover why some people spend hours on a single, simple sentence or phrase.

Now that I've got you all revved up with your tach hitting the red zone you might ease up on the gas pedal; there is a danger. It's called mixed metaphors. Like my  favorite: "An early bird gathers no moss." Don't go there unless you're doing stand-up. :o)


  1. Also useful to throw in a metonymy every once in a while too! LOL!


  2. ...which is similar to a synecdoche. lol

  3. Just found a good way to differentiate:

    synecdoche - part equals whole.
    metonyny - thing equals concept.

    Hmmm, blog that!


  4. "Get your butt over here"= synecdoche, using butt to represent your whole bod.

    "The Oval Office today reports.." = metonyny, substituting the physical office for the U.S. President.

  5. Fun fun fun. But I also have to tell you, I LOVE your cartoon.

  6. A metaphor by Margaret Atwood comes to mind:

    You fit into me
    like a hook into an eye

    a fish hook
    an open eye

    Yup, relationships are painful, sometimes.

    And now I'm going to spend the day identifying synecdoche or metonymy or mixed metaphor in everyone's speech. Especially funny are idiomatic expressions translated from one language to another. My sister often says that I cut the grass from under her feet. :)

  7. Haha LM, I think your sister's got a new breed of metaphor there!