Dish logic

7 Oct

While washing dishes this morning, I was thinking about Tim Minchin’s graduation address, in which he compares ideological political debaters to two tennis players trying to win a match by lobbing balls over a net at opposite ends of separate tennis courts.

“How apt,” I thought. “It’s the perfect metaphor for the very thing I’ve often….” My line of thought was suddenly interrupted. “But he said, ‘It’s like two tennis players’, so in fact, he was using a simile.”

A smug, self-satisfied internal smile ensued from some smart-ass part of my brain.

“But that doesn’t make any sense,” I argued with myself. “Because, it’s very clear that comparing tennis players to debaters is actually a metaphor. And in fact, if you think about it, a simile must be just one type of metaphor.”

A quick run over to Google confirms.

The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992) pp.653–55:

METAPHOR … (1) All figures of speech that achieve their effect through association, comparison, and resemblance. Figures like antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy, simile are all species of metaphor.

I remember very clearly being taught that similes and metaphors were two different things. I wonder if that’s been refined now in our school system, or if there’s some standardized test somewhere that insists one is not the subset of the other.

This is the kind of ridiculous thing I think about while washing dishes. Kinda nice to let your mind wander down shady, overgrown paths on occasion.

Oooooh, a metaphor!

2 Responses to “Dish logic”

  1. T Brekken October 7, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Nice! Thanks for the Minchin link too. He’s great and that was a great speech.

  2. Ted Parkinson October 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    Yes, “metaphor” is what underlies all those types of comparisons. Northrop Frye liked to use “Joseph is a fruitful bough” as an example of the most ‘radical’ kind of metaphor. We know that Joseph is NOT a tree, yet the sentence directly asserts that he IS one. A simile is a less radical form because it inserts the ‘weasel word’ “like”. “Joseph is like a fruitful bough” doesn’t have the same force to it.

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