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Simile and Metaphor

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Old 11-01-2008, 03:21 AM
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Default Simile and Metaphor


A simile says "X is like Y". "Like" or "as" are the words to look for. T.S. Eliot uses evocative similes in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". What do you think he means when he says "the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table"? That patient could be heavy, slack, quiet, unnatural, unresponsive, or filled with foreboding. Eliot leaves it to the imagination, and his poem benefits.

Explicit similes point to particular aspects of the comparison:

"Tears fell like rain." (general) "Tears fell as steadily as rain." OR "Tears fell like rain: unwelcome and unstoppable." (explicit)

Saying that something is "as clear as mud" is an ironic simile. These work best when the two things are easily understood as not similar.

A metaphor says "X = Y", or simply uses Y in place of X. When Langston Hughes says that, without dreams, "life is a broken-winged bird / that cannot fly", that is a metaphor. Life is not a bird, but it shares the characteristics of one. Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman" is rich with metaphors: "The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas", and "The road was a ribbon of moonlight".

"The used car salesman slithered away" is a metaphor because the word "slithered" is only used for snakes. Thus, the salesman is being compared to a snake.

George Orwell, urging creativity in language, said to "never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print". So this month, invent your own similes and metaphors, and dazzle us with them!

Questions and comments about this lesson go in this thread. Your work can be posted as a separate thread with either "Simile" or "Metaphor" (or both!) in the title.

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Old 11-01-2008, 07:12 AM
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"The used car salesman slithered away" is a metaphor because the word "slithered" is only used for snakes. Thus, the salesman is being compared to a snake.
Never would have thought of that as a metaphor, but I guess you're right.
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Old 11-01-2008, 08:50 AM
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Are you just after single-line examples or full poetry, Hoi? I get easily confused...
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Old 11-01-2008, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Jarin View Post
Are you just after single-line examples or full poetry, Hoi? I get easily confused...
Look out! You've gone smiley-mad! LOL

Think of these as tools that you're learning how to use. Play with them... make something. It doesn't have to be a complete poem, but it can be. The idea is to try your hand at something new. If simile and metahor aren't new to you, you could see this as a prompt. For instance, say "I am..." and insert a metaphor or simile instead of just a noun.

Someday when you're writing a poem that you really care about, I hope you'll have these nine and sixty ways to pick from and use. That's the big idea: to build skills. In the meantime, have fun. I'm having a lot of fun researching these. I'm learning too.
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Old 11-03-2008, 12:52 AM
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Originally Posted by HoiLei View Post
Look out! You've gone smiley-mad! LOL

Gotta lov'em.
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Old 06-13-2009, 10:52 AM
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what an excellent thread these all are.

I've been told I use metaphors. I dont' intentionally do so, in fact about 2 years ago found out what they were(still didn't know why I used them lol or how for that matter.) but i always like to read a defintion of what they are and the usage as they give me hope that someday I will.

thanks for the posts

Cos
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Old 06-13-2009, 01:19 PM
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You're welcome, CoS! I'm glad you're enjoying this forum.

Actually, I've been soliciting feedback on how to encourage more people to use this forum. Check out this thread. Thanks!
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Old 06-13-2009, 01:25 PM
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Well i'm sure by word of mouth, but i will definitely have a go at this and the challenges/contest this site provides. I'm here to learn to improve, can't do it withoug participating fully.

thanks again

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Old 06-13-2009, 01:52 PM
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Only just found this thread after it just got bumped. Very useful!
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Old 09-29-2009, 02:57 PM
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It's very useful this thread, and I want to ask something

Is this a metaphor?

Dreams are birds that enter the next realm.

I know it's rubbish, but would it count?
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Old 09-29-2009, 04:41 PM
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Yep, that'd be a metaphor. And whether it's rubbish or not depends on what you do with it.
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Old 02-10-2015, 06:15 PM
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A simile says "X is like Y". "Like" or "as" are the words to look for.
I think that the definition needs to be expanded.

First of all, the comparison must be between two essentially dissimilar things. For instance, "The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball" compares the sun to a red rubber ball, something that you would never mistake the sun for. ("Hey Ralph, look at that red rubber ball coming over the horizon!") The simile is used to give the reader a clearer idea as to some aspect of the compared object. The essential element, however, is their dissimilarity. So, "I am like my twin brother" or "One seagull is pretty much like another" are not similes even though they fit the quoted definition.

And similes are not limited to comparisons using "like" or "as" - English teachers like to keep it that simple because it's easier to teach it that way, but the definition is broader. To explain, I must first digress . . .

"He has muscles like iron" is a simile. "He has iron muscles" is a metaphor (a compressed comparison). The word "like" (or "as") acts like an equals sign in a math equation. So what would you call the following? "His muscles are stronger than iron."

Think about it a minute before you read on.

By the quoted definition, you could not call it a simile . . . but it is. The difference between similes and metaphors is that the simile has some word or phrase that acts like an equals sign. "Like" and "as" are the most common, but they're not the only ones.

"Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (statement of fact), faster than a speeding bullet (simile - not metaphor), more powerful than a locomotive (also a simile) . . . "

Strictly speaking, I suppose they're all just statements of fact because they are literally true, but if you used "faster than a speeding bullet" about a sprinter, if would be a simile, and if you called a wrestler "more powerful than a locomotive" it would also be a simile.

A final series of examples:

He has muscles like steel. (simile)
He has steel muscles. (metaphor)
He has muscles stronger than steel . . . (simile!)
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Old 02-11-2015, 02:22 AM
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It's not either/or. Simile is a subset, or a kind of metaphor.
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