These Analogies are Analogous to Analogies

As a writer, I can be a little snooty when it comes to choosing my words.  As a reader, however, I can be either elated or completely turned off by the way an author turns a phrase.  Some of my favorite authors are those who say things in such a surprising and unique way that it’s almost a revelation of what language can do.  Some of my favorites for this have included:

Tim Robbins
Christopher Moore
Salman Rushdie
Margaret Attwood

On the other hand, I can’t stand it when an author tries to force the words to do something. I think that being too heavy-handed with a metaphor is worse than leaving it out completely. I know that many of us get into writing for the very fact that we can string together all of our favorite flowery words, but the fact of the matter is that it can sometimes to more damage than good.

Of course, when when you’re learning the concepts of similies, metaphors, personification, and analogies, it’s hard not to go overboard. A list went around the Internet a while back claiming to be bad analogies written by high school students and collected by teachers. There are some doozies posted here at Writing English. A couple of my favorites:

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

It turns out that there’s more to the story…as well as more analogies when you learn that they were originally submissions to a humor contest by The Washington Post back in 1999.


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