Irrelevant Troubadour


Let’s Get Metaphorical
February 7, 2011, 1:32 am
Filed under: literature, ridiculousness

In which I explain some jokes and in so doing deprive them of their humor.

You know what I find hilarious?  Bad metaphors.  It’s one of the few sub-categories of bad writing that’s consistently amusing and very rarely dull or off-putting.  They way I see it, you have four kinds of bad metaphors:

  • The basic mixed metaphor.  Simple and often effective. From the sports column of the New Jersey Star Ledger: “He was marooned in the jaws of a human minefield, and with every step the noose grew tighter.”
  • The forgotten metaphor, or “metaphorgotten” to quote the perpetually pun-happy TV Tropes.  Writing a metaphor is like riding a bull, see: you have to be careful not to let it get away from you or you’ll end up lying on the sand at a fairground in New Mexico while a bunch of snot-nosed kids laugh at you and then you’ll get puked on by a drunk clown.
  • The absurd metaphor.  It works, but the thing it compares the event it describes to is so outlandish that it draws attention to itself, something that in my mind metaphors shouldn’t do unless they’re begin deliberately silly.  It’s something like this, from the often hilarious LiveJournal community weepingcock: “And then he was fully socketed to her, like a pipe wrench in a crock of warm chili.”  Although thinking back on it, I kind of think “socketed” is much worse than any number of pipe wrenches in chili.
  • The completely literal metaphor.  I had to go to the Lyttle Lytton Contest to find this one: “The boat moved through the sea like wood through water.”  If you don’t get it, read it again.

And before you say it: yeah, I know all of these are similes, but I’ve never really cared for that distinction.  In closing, I hope you enjoyed reading this completely pointless post as much as I enjoyed writing it.  It’s been real.

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