Similes and Metaphors: They Have to Make (at Least Some Kind of) Sense

METAPHORI felt compelled to get this short post written and at a pace: two reasons: first, to compensate for a subtle yet incrementally lengthening time lag between updates on this blog due to the editing of my latest manuscript(s); second, to try and stem the flow of dreadful similes and metaphors that I have been exposed to lately not only in unpublished MS’s I have been asked to comment on, but also, somewhat lamentably, several published books and print articles (and, to a lesser extent, one execrably memorable essay of eye-bleeding awfulness) that really should know better.

It’s straightforward:

The sea is an angry dog.

Good.

The sea is a flatulent drunken man, the waves the spittle at his quivering lips, the tossed ships his quivering lapels, flecked with whiskey, the distant beckoning shore his shirt tails poking through his undone flies, white as purest sand.

Bad.

Why? Simply because (unless this is done for humour as here) who ever envisaged the sea as such?

Basically, without wishing to preclude originality, similes and metaphors must be consistent with broader human experience to make sense, and not drift toward the laughable as above. (Unless, as mentioned, you are actually going for Evelyn Waugh-esque laughs!)

How so? Think about it. An angry dog requires respect and encourages awe in the same way as the sea. A drunk man requires a bucket to be sick into. So, er, what is this simile trying to achieve?

Q.E.D.

Watch out for them …

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