Grammar: Metaphors

Posted March 21, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

Revised as of:
2 Feb 2017

“Writers are merely ants scrambling through their jumbled manuscripts of words and paragraphs, struggling to edit, and obeying the commands of their muses.”

Don’t freak out! It is a long and involved exploration of metaphors…who knew there were so many different kinds! HOWEVER, the only thing that’s really important is understanding the idea of the metaphor.

None of your readers are going to be picking through and categorizing them. My greatest reason for the plethora below is to provide a repository of the varieties and the also known ases. For the rest, enjoy the examples and have a good laugh *grin*

One author who is fabulous with metaphors (and will make you laugh along the way) is Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. For graphic and easy examples, he can’t be beat.

“Nothing but stars, scattered across the blackness as though the Creator had smashed the windscreen of his car and hadn’t bothered to stop to sweep up the pieces.” – Sir Terry Pratchett Pyramids

And be warned, some metaphors and rhetorical devices criss-cross from category to category. That’s English fer ya…

It’s a Hardworking Figure of Speech

The beauty of the metaphor is how much of your work it does for you, a graphic contrast…imagine the difference between poetry and a legal brief. Using very few words, you can paint a vivid description that pulls your readers in, to show your readers, appeal to their senses, give life to dialogue and your characters.

The emotional impact of talking about soldiers in the field is so much more when they are boots on the ground. Which is more interesting: I have too much email or I’m falling behind on my email? It’s raining out or it’s raining cats and dogs? Nice wheels says a lot more about a character than nice car. Just as I was happy as a lark makes a contrast with happy as a pig in mud. *Laughing*, I absolutely adored the complex sentence about the crazed teacher ripping into the exams.

Using appropriate metaphors appeals directly to the senses of listeners or readers, sharpening their imaginations to visualize your words. It gives a life-like quality to our conversations and to the characters of the fiction or poetry. Metaphors are also ways of thinking, offering the listeners and the readers fresh ways of examining ideas and viewing the world.

“A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, they would both drown. Considering this, the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so.”

“His new boss was a pig.”

“She looked at him like he was a looming boa constrictor about to squeeze her dry.”

“Trying to restore my hard disk using the instructions provided was as if somebody had given me an elastic band and two paper clips and told me to make a working model of the space shuttle.”

Stories Can Be Metaphors

Allegories and parables are extended metaphors that tell a story using symbolic objects, characters, figures or actions to express ideas or truths about human nature, political situations, or historical events to express an idea or teach a lesson. I’ve included puns as they are similar to a metaphor in how it uses words.

Allegories are the story
Metaphors use “is” (conjugations of “to be”)
Similes use “is like”

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle? If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page and consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.

Credit to: Burckmyer, 133; Literary Devices; Bagnall; The Classroom;Merriam-Webster: simile and catachresis; Carson-Newman University: Nordquist: dead metaphor and mixed metaphor; Richard A. Nordquist: “13 Ways of Looking at a Metaphor
Part of Speech: Literary Device; Figure of Speech; Rhetorical Device
Definition: All metaphors are used in a specific instance to draw attention to similarities and parallels between different things.

It typically uses is a to join subjects.

Be aware that, if the metaphor becomes overused, it turns into a cliché.

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Anatomy of a Metaphor

Metaphors continued

Metaphors continued

Anatomy of a Metaphor
Tenor: thing being talked about, a.k.a., target domain, topic

Vehicle: that which is being compared, a.k.a., source domain

Ground: the link between tenor and vehicle, i.e., common properties (Ullmann). This is not any set of words, but a concept

Tension: the dissimilarities between the tenor and the vehicle


  1. Green indicates the tenor
  2. Blue indicates the vehicle

The guy was a real firecracker, determined to live life on his own terms.”

Life is a walking shadow.

The ground that links these two is the concept of transience.

The bow bent remembers home long,
the years of its tree, the whine
of wind all night conditioning
it, and its answer — Twang!

“To the people here who would fret me down
their way and make me bend:
By remembering hard I could startle for home
and be myself again.”
– William Stafford, “Recoil”

Life is a yo-yo. It’s a series of ups and downs.

That both life and a yo-yo have ups and downs is the ground.

Definition: Uses a word or phrase to describe a person, place, thing, or action that creates an indirect comparison between two disparate things to represent an idea.
The Metaphor The Explanation
The ship plowed through the waves. Okay, the boat is not actually using a plow.
Rich held court in the lunchroom. Rich isn’t actually holding an object called court.
He is the black sheep of the family. He’s not a sheep, and he’s not black. Well, I suppose he could be, but not in this instance.
Jennie was boiling mad. She is too angry for words.
The test was a breeze. Implies that it was easy.
Her voice is music to his ears. Her voice makes him happy.
The man is drowning in money. He’s really rich.
Caution: Don’t Mix Metaphors
Rule: Do not blatantly mix metaphors unless you’re trying to create an inane scenario or make your character look really stupid. It can be handy if you do a subtle job of it, but you should explore mixed metaphors, catachresis, and abusio for a better way.
She’s a witch who flocks to lasso every new kid on the block.

So, she’s a witch, a sheep, and a cowgirl.

Better: She’s a witch who puts a spell on every new kid on the block.

Absolute Metaphor Definition: There is absolutely no connection between tenor and vehicle. A state which can confuse and make people work hard to understand what it means.

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Other ways to identify an absolute metaphor:

  • Expresses an idea when the figurative side is known but the other is unknown or hard to grasp
  • Expresses part of a reality we wouldn’t otherwise understand

A.k.a., antimetaphor, paralogical metaphor

“The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.” – Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro”
A poetic description of pale faces against a dark background.
“Death is a journey” Who knows death?
truth is light Indicates that we see something in a clear manner or throws light on an issue.
I am the dog end of every day. A dismal, exhausting end to a day.
A television set is the autobahn of a living room. Encourages the reader to draw his/her own conclusions based on how they interpret autobahn (Buzzle).
We faced a scallywag of tasks. A colorful way to expression a terrifying pile of work to do.
“We are the eyelids of defeated caves” (Shipley, 197). Exhausted and weary unto death with life.
seafaring human existence
Active Metaphor Definition: A new metaphor which is not yet part of everyday linguistic usage. It can be a metaphor just written, but the audience knows that a metaphor has been used.

A.k.a., live metaphor

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A photon struck him. He had a small idea.
metrosexual An urban heterosexual male overly concerned with his appeance
Panting hard, he hand-braked the corner, power-sliding into the doorway. Comparing running to driving.
You’re looking pretty rabbit, what’s up? You’re looking stressed. Why is that?
Noisy twinkling in the night, the shares blew hypnotic shards of brilliance down on the hopeful investors. Describing the share price movement to a sky-rocketing firework.
Complex Metaphor Definition: The literal meaning is expressed through several layers in a combination of primary metaphors.

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That throws some light on the question. Throwing light is a metaphor and there is no actual light. (Shipley, 197).
That lends weight to the argument. Lends and weight are combined to quickly explain how new information makes the argument more important.
The ball happily danced into the net. Happily and danced combine to give us a joyful visual of the ball bouncing as the goal is scored.
“But look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, Walk o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet Okay, so morning doesn’t wear clothes, especially since “morning” is an abstract concept. And that russet mantle is a metaphor for the rising sun and the color of dawn.
Compound Metaphor Definition: Uses a number of metaphors and sometimes more than one association.

A.k.a., loose metaphor

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He has the wild stag’s foot. This phrase suggests grace and speed as well as daring (Shipley, 197).
The air smelled of fear, the fear of abandonment.
Thick, primal, blind fog descended before his eyes. The series of words describing the fog paint a vivid picture of blindness.
The car screeched in hated anguish, its flesh laid bare in the raucous collision. A verb and adjectives show the reader the horror of the action.
Conceptual Metaphor Definition: Creates a novel thought or universal concept that is understood in terms of another (Fez-Barringten, 120).

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The Literary Link has a slew of examples you may want to explore.

Life is a journey.

I have reached a crossroads.

Universal appeal that applies to everyman (Fez-Barringten, 120).
Your claims are indefensible. war as an argument
His criticisms were right on target. words as a weapon
You’re wasting my time. time is money
I’ve invested a lot of time in her. time is money
It’s hard to get that idea across to him. conveying an idea
You can’t simply stuff ideas into a sentence any old way. You have to take time over a sentence. Know what you want to say.
He fell ill. down metaphor
He’s at the peak of health. up metaphor
Lazarus rose from the dead. up metaphor
That boosted my spirits. up metaphor
I’m depressed. down metaphor
My spirits sank. down metaphor
My spirits rose. up metaphor
Conventional Metaphor Definition: A commonly used comparison that doesn’t call attention to itself as a figure of speech.

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Time is running out.

It’s time to get on with your life.

What can I say? I’m an early bird.

He is such a night owl.

I can never catch up on my email.

It’s raining cats and dogs.

Creative Metaphor Definition: An original comparison that does call attention to itself as a figure of speech.

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He was eager to help but his legs were rubber.” – Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

“Scratching at the window with claws of pine, the wind wants in.” – Imogene Bolls, “Coyote Wind” (Purdue OWL)

“Little boys lie still, awake wondering, wondering delicate little boxes of dust.” – James Wright, “The Undermining of the Defense Economy” (Purdue OWL)

“The clouds were low and hairy in the skies, like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes.” – Robert Frost, “Once by the Pacific” (Purdue OWL)

Dead Metaphor Definition: A metaphor which has lost the original imagery of its meaning due to extensive, repetitive, and popular usage and normally goes unnoticed.

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Some people distinguish between a dead metaphor and a cliché while others use dead metaphor to denote both (Nordquist).

A.k.a., frozen metaphor, historical metaphor

arms of the chair
body of the lamp
foot of the bed
crowning glory
face of the mountain
grasp a concept
tying up loose ends
a submarine sandwich
a branch of government
gather what you’ve understood
Money has died as a metaphor because no one remembers it was so-named because it was first minted at the temple of Juno Moneta (Shipley, 197).
Dormant Metaphor Definition: Contact with the initial idea it denoted has been lost.
When the metaphor’s meaning becomes unclear.

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He was carried away by his passions. It is not known what those passions were that caused the man to be moved (Perelman, 88).
I was lost in thought. How was I lost?…(Changing Minds)
She flew at him. In anger? Love? (Changing Minds)
He was rattled. Why? By what or whom? (Changing Minds)
Dying Metaphor Definition: Unfashionably clichéd metaphors.

A.k.a., dying metaphor, mummy metaphor, rising-from-the-dead metaphor

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needle in a haystack
Achilles’ heel
a different ball game
time is money
Extended Metaphor Definition: A comparison between two unlike things that continues throughout a series of sentences in a paragraph, a long passage, or an entire poem.

A.k.a., telescoping metaphor, sustained metaphor, conceit

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“the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge…the star that is not reached and the harvest that’s sleeping in the unplowed ground.” A picture of America as “drawn” by President Lyndon B. Johnson in his inaugural address (Sommer, ix).
“All the world’s a stage and men and women merely players.” – Shakespeare, As You Like It We are as actors living our lives in the stage of the world.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood / and sorry I could not travel both. / And be one traveler, long I stood / And looked down one as far as I could / to where it bent in the undergrowth.” – Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken” Develops an extended metaphor of traveling down a road as a journey taken in life (
“Well, Son, I tell you / life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. / It’s had tacks in it, / and splinters, / And boards torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor — / bare. – Langston Hughes, “Mother to Son” Compares life to a walk up a staircase (
The teacher descended upon the exams, sank his talons into their pages, ripped the answers to shreds, and then, perching in his chair, began to digest.
Allegory Definition: An extended metaphor or symbol that uses symbolic objects, characters, figures or actions to express ideas or truths about human nature, political situations, or historical events using a narrative in its entirety to express an idea or teach a lesson — the symbolism will permeate the story.

Allegory is also a genre.

In Western culture, allegories have often been used for instructive purposes around Christian themes.

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The stories in Aesop’s Fables are narratives with an underlying message:

  • “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”
  • “The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg”
  • “The Tortoise and the Hare”
  • “The Ant and the Grasshopper”

“The Scorpion and the Frog”

“All the world’s a stage,And all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts,” – the monologue from Shakespeare’s As You Like It

  • John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, a protagonist named Christian goes on a journey in which he encounters complicating characters and situations such as Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Vanity Fair, and the Slough of Despair, thus depicting the struggles of a Christian trying to stay pure.
  • “In some ways Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown is an allegory with Faith’s character, the Devil offering his snake-like staff, the temptation scene, and so on. Hawthorne manipulates the conventions of allegory, however, to resist a fixed meaning and create an ending that is open to interpretation” (Virtual Lit).
  • George Orwell’s Animal Farm is reduced to standing for one thing and one mission to accomplish, making it a simple allegory (Foster, pp 105).
  • Aesop’s Fables are narratives with an underlying message:
    • “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is about a boy who claims to see a wolf when he does not. When he actually sees a wolf, no one believes him. The underlying story is that it doesn’t take much for a liar to lose the trust of others, which can hurt him in a time of need.
  • Edmund Spencer’s epic poem The Faerie Queene is about knights in Faerieland and their virtues with the intention of teaching readers to be act virtuously and practice “gentle discipline”.
Bibliomancy Definition: Bases a plot event on religious texts and may use religious images or stories or even verses to tell a story.

The author may randomly select a bible passage as the base of the story.

Bibliomancy is a Miraculous Thing

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While Christians look to the Bible and Hindus use The Vedas while Muslims rely on the Koran.

A perfect example of this device is found in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Uncle John places a dead baby in a box and floats it down stream. This is reminiscent of the story of Moses whose mother places him in a basket and floats him down the Nile river. Another example is in the film “Braveheart” where William Wallace is “sacrificed” for the people of Scotland with his arms and legs in a crucifix position.

Analogy Definition: An extended metaphor that compares an idea or a thing to another thing that is quite different from it by using metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech as mechanisms for making those comparisons. The key is to compare in a way that gets the reader thinking about what things both things may have in common.

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It often demonstrates how two things are alike by pointing out shared characteristics, with the goal of showing that if two things are similar in some ways, they are similar in other ways as well.

It’s useful when trying to explain something complex and use something familiar as an example, and it often uses metaphors and/or similes to do it.

The structure of an atom is like a solar system. It’s nucleus is the sun and the electrons are the planets revolving around their sun.

“Like” compares the atomic structure to a solar system = simile.

Not using “like” or “as” to compare that atomic structure in more detail = metaphor. And using simile and metaphor together makes an analogy.

Life is like a race. The one who keeps running wins the race and the one who stops to catch a breath loses.

Just as a sword is the weapon of a warrior, a pen is the weapon of a writer.

How a doctor diagnoses diseases is like how a detective investigates crimes.

Just as a caterpillar comes out of its cocoon, so we must come out of our comfort zone.

You are as annoying as nails on a chalkboard.

Life is like the hundred-yard dash.

Birth is but the starting gun on life.

God is the judge.

Humans and ants each build elaborate cities and structures, demonstrate hierarchical social behaviors, and utilize other creatures for labor.

It compares the two species to show similarities, but does not say that ants and humans are the same.

Examples courtesy of Literary Devices.

Conceit Definition: An extended metaphor using unusual and unlikely, sometimes shocking or farfetched, comparisons to link two vastly different objects, with the help of similes or metaphors that aids the reader into a more sophisticated understanding of an object of comparison, in seeing in a new way.

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May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Juxtaposing
  2. Manipulating
  3. Simile
  4. Usurping

It may use a complex logic that governs a poetic passage or entire poem.

You may want to read David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary.

“Oh stay! three lives in one flea spare
Where we almost, yea more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage-bed and marriage-temple is” – John Donne, “The Flea

Donne is telling his lover that “she has no reason to deny him sexually as the flea has sucked blood from both of them and their blood has mingled in its gut, so the flea has become their ‘wedding bed’, though they are not married yet” (Literary Devices)..

“Thou counterfeit’st a bark, a sea, a wind;
For still thy eyes, which I may call the sea,
Do ebb and flow with tears; the bark thy body is,
Sailing in this salt flood; the winds, thy sighs;
Who, raging with thy tears, and they with them,
Without a sudden calm, will overset
Thy tempest-tossed body.” – Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 5

Shakespeare “compares Juliet to a boat in a storm, using conceit in which he compares her eyes to a sea, her tears to a storm, her sighs to the stormy winds and her body to a boat in a storm” (Literary Devices).

Parable Definition: An extended metaphor narrated as an anecdote using symbolism, similes, and metaphors to illustrate and teach morality. The most familiar usage is the stories from the Bible.

The parable is similar to the allegory and may use analogy.

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“The Good Samaritan”, Luke 10:25-37
“The Emperor’s New Clothes”
“Parable of the Lost Sheep”, Luke 15:3-7
“Parable of the Talents”, Matthew 25:14-30
“Parable of the Lost Son”, Luke 15:11-32

Examples are from Your

Proverb Definition: A popular phrase expressing a basic truth which may be applied to common situations or experiences.

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Be aware that, if the phrase has become overused, it turns into a cliché.

Some authors who have created, used, or twisted proverbs include J.R.R. Tolkein, Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series, C. S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy, François Rabelais’ Gargantua, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, J.D. Robb’s In Death series, Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series, and on and on and on, lol…

A.k.a., paremia, parimia, adagium, adage, paroemia, saying, adage, saw, maxim, axiom, motto, bon mot, aphorism, apophthegm, epigram, gnome, dictum, precept

when the going gets tough, the tough get going

the blind leading the blind

a bird in the bush is worth two in the hand

a stitch in time

when in Rome

the pen is mightier than the sword

two wrongs don’t make a right

the squeaky wheel gets the grease

returning like a dog to his vomit

Examples are from Brigham Young University.

PhraseMix has a list (and explanation) of the 50 most common proverbs.

Phrases has a much more extensive list…some 650 of ’em!

Implicit Metaphor Definition: An incomplete description in which the tenor is not specified but implied.

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I’m burning. Burning passion is implied (University of Victoria).
“It was extremely hot during the day. We were almost roasted!” Conveys the idea of how hot it was (Buzzle).
Angrily Sonia barked commands at her child. Compares Sonia to a dog (Your
Beth was drowning in love. Compares Beth to someone drowning and compares love to water (Your
The Porsche crouched before the race, growling in anticipation. Compares the Porsche to a big cat (Your
The words nourished his bruised ego. Compares words to food (Your
The paparazzi circled over the young singing sensation. Compares paparazzi to vultures (Your
Bigotry infects the soul. Compares bigotry to a disease (Your
Mixed Metaphors Definition: One that leaps from one identification to a second identification inconsistent with the first.

A.k.a., mixaphor

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I smell a rat.

We’ll have to nip that one in the bud.

“If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes should fall like a house of cards. Checkmate. – Captain Zapp Brannigan, Futurama.

“I conclude that the city’s proposal to skim the frosting, pocket the cake, and avoid paying the fair, reasonable, and affordable value of the meal is a hound that will not hunt.” – a labor arbitrator, quoted by the Boston Globe, May 8, 2010

To my mind’s eye,

Catachresis Definition: A completely impossible figure of speech.

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It is closely related to hyperbole and sometimes synaesthesia.

A mixed metaphor that is a concentration of meaning by purposely (sometimes through error) compressing, energizing, and intensifying a statement, or most likely, a line of poetry to create a rhetorical effect between two ideas or objects.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Incongruity
  2. Anthimeria
  3. Hyperbole
  4. Synæsthesia
  5. Metonymy

It may mix the extremes of such figures of speech as anthimeria, hyperbole, synæsthesia, and metonymy to create this exaggerated comparison. It is usually paradoxical, frequently expressing extreme alienation or heightened emotions by stacking one impossibility on top of another.

cold comfort It’s not much of a comfort at all.
“Take arms against a sea of troubles…” – Shakespeare, Hamlet It’s a futile battle against a mass of problems.
“The voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses.” – e.e. cummings It seems illogical, but cummings is saying that her eyes are powerful enough to shut him down or open him up.
“I’ve waited for a long time. Yeah, the sleight of my hand is now a quick-pull trigger. / I reason with my cigarette.” – Foster the People, “Pumped Up Kicks” Deals with a school shooting with the shooter/narrator thinking one can’t reason with a cigarette. It could evoke the idea of a “cool” kid using personal style instead of a persuasive argument or the imagery of burning victims with a cigarette-butt to make one’s point.
“There existed a void inside that void within his mind.” Emphasizes how incredibly stupid this person is.
In pop music from the 1980s, the performer…tells a disappointed lover, “There ain’t no Coup de Ville hiding the bottom of a crackerjack box.” – Meatloaf, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” The image of a luxury car hidden as a prize in the bottom of a tiny cardboard candy box emphasizes how unlikely or impossible it is his hopeful lover will find such a fantastic treasure in someone as cheap, common, and unworthy as the speaker in these lyrics.
“Joe will have kittens when he hears this!” Well, not literally.
“His complexion is perfect gallows… – Shakespeare, The Tempest About a character who is a criminal and should be hanged.
“A man that studies revenge keeps his own wounds green…” – Francis Bacon, “On Revenge” Compares revenge with wounds.
“or cool one Pain” – Emily Dickinson, “Life” She’s hoping to ease a breaking heart.
“I will speak daggers to her.” Shakespeare, Hamlet While it’s not possible to literally speak daggers, we know that Hamlet will get nasty with Gertrude.

The tears falling from her eyes were so sad they too began to cry with her.

Joe will have kittens when he hears this!

Abusio Definition: A more comical and absurd form of catachresis that combines two metaphors to collide into a mixed metaphor.

When used intentionally for a subtle effect, abusio and catachresis can be powerful tools for originality. See the caution about metaphors.

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It’s as easy as falling off a piece of cake. Well, one would more likely fall of a log.
The little lady turtled along at twelve miles per hour (Buzzle). I reckon she was going really slow.
“The dreadful hand of totalitarianism watches all that goes on around it and growls at its enemies (Buzzle).” Very weird mix of metaphors with a hand that can watch and growl!
“Now that is a horse of a different feather (Buzzle).” This merges two clichés to emphasize how radical this event is. From a “horse of a different color” plus “birds of a feather”.
I can read him like the back of my book. I must say it is more interesting to read the back of a book than the usual metaphor “back of my hand”.
If we want to get ahead, we’ll have to iron out the remaining bottlenecks. Makes a mess of complex, compound metaphors of “getting ahead”, “ironing out problems”, and “unjamming the bottlenecks”.
Pataphor Definition: An extreme metaphor that expresses a statement by using extensions of a simple metaphor and creating its own context.

John Findlay has a great post, “Playing with Pataphors“, that has made the most sense to me.

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James and Sandra are having a casual conversation where James coyly signals for a date. Sandra agrees to catch up on the coming Friday. Once she leaves, James messages Helen about going on a date on Thursday. James smiles as the message from Helen beeps: Yes. So finally, he was done with his checkmating for the day. Checkmating, where there is an imaginary chessboard with characters although there is no literary context of the game attached to it (Buzzle).
He put brakes on his fear, accelerated his anger, and rammed into the house. Used to attract attention (Fez-Barringten, 121).
winning an argument Indicates a tiff with with one party gaining the upper hand.
Primary Metaphor Definition: A basic, intuitively understood metaphor that may be combined with other primary metaphors to produce complex metaphors.

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Complex Metaphor Primary Metaphor
I was happy as a lark. up
The gray day dragged me under. down
Life is theater. Combines life as a concept and theater as a concrete experience.
knowing is seeing It is a ground between knowing and seeing
time is motion Combines time with motion to indicate that it moves along.
Root Metaphor Definition: An image, narrative, or fact that shapes an individual’s perception of the world and interpretation of reality. They can be tricky and not be obvious.

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One’s religious conditioning will affect how each views birth, marriage, death and other universal life experiences.

A.k.a., basic metaphor, master metaphor, myth

the thread or cord (spun and cut by the Greek Fates) One’s cultural background determines metaphorical understanding (Shipley, 197).
The defense attorney — Mr Simon Andrews — never misses on winning an argument.” Argument is analogous to war with a raw aggression factor attached (Buzzle).
the acorn that should grow into an oak tree A natural expression of life.
Simile Definition: A type of metaphor in which the writer makes a direct comparison between two unlike things, usually with the words as, like, resembles or than.

Be aware that, if the simile has become overused, it turns into a cliché.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Provide new insight
  3. Rhetorical Device

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Rule: Whether a word is a simile or a metaphor depends on if you use as or like.
Simile Metaphor
“She’s as fierce as a tiger. She’s a tiger when she’s angry.
I wanna be as brave as a lion, Daddy. She is a lion when protecting her children.
She’s crazy like a fox. She is a fox.
Rule: Use known events or things that help your reader visualize a vivid description using fewer words.
Her cheeks were as red as cherries…

She glides through life like a swan.

He runs like a race horse.

“That was the way all the Aubignys fell in love, as if struck by a pistol shot.” – Kate Chopin, “Desirée’s Baby”

“He walked Seabiscuit through the masses of shouting fans to the winner’s circle. The horse was strutting like a prizefighter.” – Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit

Simple Metaphor Definition: Usually two or three words at most with but one meaning, one point of resemblance between the tenor and the vehicle.

A.k.a., tight metaphor

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Cool it!
He’s mad!
You’re such a dinosaur!
duck down
Submerged Metaphor Definition: A part used as a metaphor for something else; one or the other, the tenor or the vehicle, is implied rather than stated explicitly.

A.k.a., implicit metaphor

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my winged thought The reader has to supply the image of the bird.
He legged it He took off running.
menacing terminal Implies a scary-looking building (Fez-Barringten, 119)
brilliant lamp Indicates a bright light (Fez-Barringten, 119)
Coach Smith mended the losing pitcher’s hurt feelings. He tried to make the man feel better.
Synecdoche Definition: A part used as a metaphor for the whole of something or a part for the whole. It may also function as a metonymic.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Metonymy
  3. Rhetorical Device

A.k.a., simultaneous understanding

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bread and butter livelihood
suits businessmen
boots soldiers
No. 10
No. 10 Downing Street
the British Prime Minister
the Pentagon the United States Department of Defense
feathers bird
Croesus rich man
ten sails ten ships
coke carbonated beverages
Merism Definition: A rhetorical term for a pair of contrasting words or phrases used to express totality or completeness, that the parts of a subject are used to describe the whole.

A.k.a., universalizing doublet, merismu

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Rhetorical Device

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…for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.

near and far

body and soul

life and death

Examples courtesy of About: Merism.

Therapeutic Metaphor Definition: Used by a therapist to assist a client in the process of personal transformation with a story or illustration to see alternative ways of looking at something.…Every culture and religion uses these types of stories, analogies, and parables to improve understanding, make a point more memorable, and help us make positive changes (Get Self

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All examples are also from Get Self with a great many more on their site.

Passengers on the Bus You are the driver, while the passengers (your thoughts) are being critical, abusive, intrusive, distracting, and shouting directions, or sometimes just plain nonsense. You can allow those passengers to shout and chatter noisily, while keeping your attention focused on the road ahead, heading towards your goal or value.
Playground Bully Our minds are like a school playground surrounded by secure high fences, keeping some children in and others out. Any bullies in that playground mean that the other children can’t escape for long. This particular bully uses verbal abuse, shouting, teasing, and threats rather than physical violence. The children are all fenced in together, and ideally, they have to learn to accept and be with each other. So neither can we escape our thoughts, we cannot stop them, but perhaps we can learn to live with them by seeing them differently.
The Tunnel When we get anxious driving through a tunnel, the best option is to keep going rather than try to escape. This feeling will pass — there is an end to this tunnel.
The Beach Ball We try to stop thoughts, but that’s impossible. It’s like trying to constantly hold an enormous inflatable beach ball under the water, but it keeps popping up in front of our faces. We can allow the ball to float around us, just letting it be. So rather than stop the thoughts, we can stop fighting them, and let them be, without reacting to them.
Visual Metaphor Definition: The representation of a person, place, thing, or idea by way of a visual image that suggests a particular association or point of similarity.

A.k.a., pictorial metaphor, analogical juxtaposition

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A sports car juxtaposed with the image of a panther Implies similar qualities of power, speed, and endurance.
A woman made up to suggest a wild animal is wearing a fur coat Wear this and you too can get wild.
The scene in Tom Jones in which he and Mrs. Waters are each eating drumsticks. Their communal eating quickly becomes obviously wanton.
A poster of a hiker with a backpack, pausing on a glorious solo trek through the Grand Canyon, the awesome spectacle looming over his shoulder with the headline “Knowledge is free. Visit your library”. Going to the library is like an odyssey through immense, spectacular country (How Design)

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