Bryan Grubbs is our in-house professor of the new Grammar Etiquette blog series, posted once a month. He is an English teacher in Denton, TX.
Anybody who has survived the public school system has been bombarded with these terms enough to know them by heart. The mere mention of any of them should have Webster’s dictionary definition scrolling through your head verbatim like an electronic ticker. So why should you keep reading this? I’ll tell you why: because like a box of Legos, just because you know what they are doesn’t mean you really know how to use them.
Beauty and the Gimp
Similes and metaphors are pretty similar by definition. The best way to compare to two is to say that similes are like the uglier of two siblings. You know the one – not as smart, athletic or charming. While both serve a purpose, similes hit with less impact. Does this make them less important? Not at all, there’s a time and place for everything.
The whole concept behind these literary devices is the realization that not everybody will experience the same things in life. Quite the contrary, most people will have exceptionally different experiences throughout life. The only thing that truly links humans to each other are their morals, beliefs and needs. Similes come into play when the author is looking to express a foreign activity or concept. This is also where most literary work and dialogue is loaded down with cliches. To say something is ‘like riding a bike’ suggests that, once learned, it is never forgotten. This concept is lost on anybody under the age of 6 who has never learned to ride a bicycle, but still manages to apply to a vast majority.
The Amateur Approach
On the other hand, saying that something is ‘like snorkeling in a bathtub filled with molasses’, will more than likely leave your audience more confused than they started out with. Which brings up an excellent point, know your audience. If you’re talking to an elderly community, it may be fun to compare things to wearing adult diapers, false teeth, losing hair or impotence, but these probably aren’t your most tactful options. There’s a time and place to be silly, but sometimes you need a more professional approach. Discussing a merger of two companies can be like a melting pot, but most people will just roll their eyes because it’s not true. Merging two companies is like combining families through marriage. Those getting married will be happy with the deal, but the others involved won’t be as willing to jump into it. There will be hard feelings, disappointment, resentment and the feeling of being overlooked.
That Lovin’ Feeling
Metaphors are a bit more powerful in my opinion. They’re also more intertwined with emotions, stream of conscious and poetry. These bad boys compare two unlike things by stating one is the other.
Example: “I am the sun. Freeze in my shadow or burn in my glory.”
With metaphors, you’re not so much comparing similar experiences as blatantly stating that a person, object, feeling or expression is something else based upon features. For instance, a porcupine is notorious for being a prick, a habanero pepper is known for being hot, and brown eyes are known for being “delicious.” Utilizing these features and some clever plays on words is the best way to use metaphors to spice up any dull Tupperware party or public address.
This finally brings us to our last entry.
What is a butphor?
For pooping, silly…
Bryan Grubbs is an English and Art teacher. He is also a member of Greater Ft Worth Writers and is an active member of the GFW Writers critique group. Members of the group will tell you he can pick out redundant words at forty feet and is quite willing to show what paragraphs or sentences are not compelling. He is a husband and father of three beautiful girls, enjoys writing science fiction/ urban fantasy/ horror, sketching, or playing video games in his free time.Have a question or comment? Let Bryan know by clicking on comments and leaving your question or comments.