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Examples of Metaphor from Everyday Speech


We don't have to look very far to find examples of metaphor. From expressions like "raining cats and dogs" to "table leg" and "old flame," everyday speech is full of examples of metaphor.

With regard to "table leg," we all have experience with legs, so in calling the thing that supports a table a "leg," we know immediately that it is long, thin, straight, and that it holds the table up, just as a leg holds up a body. "Old flame," on the other hand, reflects an emotional knowledge -- the way we experience love as a burning sensation, or a kind of heat. (And, in fact, many of our metaphors about love involve the idea of heat: someone's eyes might "smolder," Johnny Cash sang of a "ring of fire," etc.) In everyday speech, many metaphors are so subtle that we use them without realizing it.

Examples of common similes (in case you wondered) include "fit as a fiddle," "right as rain," and "sharp as a tack."

But do these kinds of everyday metaphors belong in your fiction? It's a question well worth asking, as a cliched or mixed metaphor can sink a perfectly good story. Avoid the two biggest traps with "Use Metaphors Correctly," and see how a bad metaphor can perfectly fit a comic situation with an example of a bad metaphor from George Saunders' Pastoralia.)

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