August 23, 2011

Aggravated Analogies

As a teacher of the mother tongue, one of the more difficult and sometimes torturous things I do is teaching students how to enliven their writing with insightful, intellectually pleasing analogies. I have, for many years, kept the inadvertently funny things my students have written and often share them with you.

This list of aggravated analogies came to me from a colleague who was not sure from whence they came. Apparently, they are a conglomeration of beatings suffered by the language at the hands of students everywhere and anywhere. Should anyone wish to claim authorship of the list, by all means, let me know and I'll be delighted to properly apportion credit (or blame).

In the meantime, I can certify that these syntactic train wrecks are precisely the sorts of thing my students often produce. And no, these are not evidence of the horrors of the public schools, for such mangled contrivances are often produced by the brightest and most capable students who unlike their less daring peers are willing to inch as far out on the linguistic limb as possible before inadvertently sawing it off like an inadvertent linguistic limb sawer-offer or something. Stop me before I analogize again!

In any case, may the chagrin experienced by those students who couldn't see what they had written, nor understand its horror, until it was pointed out to them by English teachers shaking with helpless laughter, pass you by as you enjoy the fruits of their…labors?

1) She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

2) She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

3) Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

4) Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a ThighMaster.

5) His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

6) He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

7) He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8) The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9) The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

10) McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11) Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

12) They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.

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

14) He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

15) 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.

16) Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

17) The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

18) Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.

19) Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20) The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for awhile.

22) He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

23) He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

24) The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

25) It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools. [And who hasn't done that?!]

Posted by MikeM at August 23, 2011 09:16 PM

Ah, yeah.

Brains with all the functionality of of a homeopathic nostrum.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at August 23, 2011 09:51 PM

I swear I've seen some of these as entries in "worst similes" contests. As in, "make your worst simile."

If not, they should be.

Some of them are so bad, they're awesome beyond words. I am a richer human being for having read them.


Posted by: Jay Tea at August 23, 2011 10:42 PM

In fact, I would swear they were read on Car Talk. When I read them, I can hear Tommy's voice.

I'm gonna go have to check on this...


They credit the Washington Post.


Posted by: Jay Tea at August 23, 2011 10:48 PM

I should be worried. I actually liked a couple of those.

The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t." -- that's Terry Pratchet-grade stuff

Posted by: richard mcenroe at August 24, 2011 10:39 AM

This post needs a Class 3 Beverage Alert and a NSFW warning - I'm pretty sure my coworkers were wondering why I was trying so hard not to burst out laughing.

Richard beat me to it. I think a lot of those are Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams grade stuff.

As a matter of fact, the bowling ball one definitely seems to be Douglas Adams' style.

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't. - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ch. 3, by Douglas Adams

The big question would be whether each one fit with the intended presentation of the work they were part of.

Posted by: Jake at August 24, 2011 02:36 PM


I *LIKED* number 10 !

"...hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup..."


Posted by: A_Nonny_Mouse at August 24, 2011 10:01 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed these. Almost made me wish I were an English teacher, rather than a music teacher. For some reason, the befuddled offerings of an overenthusiastic, underprepared musician aren't nearly as funny.

Posted by: MichigammeDave at August 25, 2011 05:49 AM

A friend of mine comes up with some good ones, and I think it's without trying. Here a couple I remember him coming up with.

"He was shaking like a chihuahua trying to pass a peach pit."

"It skimmed over the surface like a stone on a pond, until it it the wall and crumpled like a used Kleenex."

Posted by: NevadaSteve at August 25, 2011 09:04 AM

" ... like a hefty bag full of tomato soup..."

Posted by: jim at August 27, 2011 06:22 PM