Metaphors, Similes and Other Figurative Language Expressions
A metaphor is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common. The word metaphor itself is a metaphor, coming from a Greek word meaning to "transfer" or "carry across." Metaphors "carry" meaning from one word, image, or idea to another.
Some people think of metaphors as nothing more than the sweet stuff of songs and poems--Love is a jewel, or a rose, or a butterfly. But in fact all of us speak and write and think in metaphors every day. They can't be avoided: metaphors are built right into our language. Here we'll take a look at some of the different kinds of metaphors, with examples drawn from advertisements, poems, essays, songs, and TV programs.
Dr. House: Nothing matters. We're all just cockroaches, wildebeests dying on the river bank. Nothing we do has any lasting meaning.
Evan Greer: And you think I'm miserable?
Dr. House: If you're unhappy on the plane, jump out of it.
Evan Greer: I want to, but I can't.
Dr. House: That's the problem with metaphors. They need interpretation. Jumping out of the plane is stupid.
Evan Greer: But what if I'm not in a plane? What if I'm just in a place I don't want to be?
Dr. House: That's the other problem with metaphors. Yes, what if you're actually in an ice cream truck, and outside are candy and flowers and virgins? You're on a plane! We're all on planes. Life is dangerous and complicated, and it's a long way down.
("Living the Dream")
"Life is a journey, travel it well."
"Life is a journey. Enjoy the Ride."
a simile is a comparison (usually introduced by like or as) between two things that are generally not alike--such as a line of migrant workers and a wave, or onion skins and a swarm of butterflies:
The stooped forms inched in an uneven line, like a wave, across the onion field.
Occasionally there was a gust of wind, and he was engulfed by sudden rustling and flickering shadows as a high spiral of onion skins fluttered about him like a swarm of butterflies.
Examples from Shakespeare:
Romeo and Juliet Act 1 Scene 1
Why, such is love's transgression.
Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast,
Which thou wilt propagate, to have it prest
With more of thine: this love that thou hast shown
Doth add more grief to too much of mine own.
Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;
Being vex'd a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.
Farewell, my coz.
Other Figurative Language devices:
Repetition of an initial consonant sound. Linda likes licorice lately.
Similarity in sound between internal vowels in neighboring words. Alfred already asked Allen about astronauts.
An extravagant statement; the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or heightened effect.
The raging creek seemed a mile wide.
A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated. The student received a note from the principal’s office.
The formation or use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to. The bees buzzed loudly in the field.
A figure of speech in which incongruous or contradictory terms appear side by side. See Romeo’s lines in Act 1 S1.
A figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities. The clock whispered the seconds by slowly as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling.
A play on words, sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words. There was a sign on the lawn at a drug re-hab center that said 'Keep off the Grass'.
A figure of speech is which a part is used to represent the whole, the whole for a part, the specific for the general, the general for the specific, or the material for the thing made from it. “Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your ears.”
A figure of speech in which a writer or a speaker deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is. Losing all your wealth in this depression can be a minor inconvenience.
Finish each phrase with whatever metaphor or simile comes immediately to mind.
To really get the most of the exercise, don't worry about coming up with something good, just write. The whole idea is to get your subconscious to make connections in a new, more creative way.
1. Blue paint spilled on the road like___________________________.
2. Canceled checks in the abandoned subway car seemed___________________________.
3. A spider under the rug is like___________________________.
4. Graffiti on the abandoned building like___________________________.
5. Nothing was the same, now that it was___________________________.
6. The dice rolled out of the cup toward Veronica like___________________________.
7. A child in _________________ is like a _______________ in _____________________.
8. _________________is like muscles stretched taut over bone.
9. The fog plumed through gunshot holes in the car windows like ___________________________.
10. She held her life in her own hands as if it were___________________________.
11. Lacey poured coffee down her throat as if ___________________________.
12. If I should wake before I die,___________________________.
13. The security guard walks the lobby as if___________________________.
14. The library books left in the rain like___________________________.
15. Music in the hallway like___________________________.