If you teach high school English, I expect you’ve seen this list before. I’ll bet you even showed it to other members in your English department, and you all shared a good laugh one afternoon, as students left the building and you braced yourself for an hour or two of essay grading before you headed home.
That’s how it happened for me, when I saw this list for the first time, but that was toward the beginning of my teaching career, before there was Facebook. Since then I have seen it posted numerous times, most recently this morning. Here it is:
- Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.
- He was as tall as a 6′3″ tree.
- Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
- 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.
- John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
- She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
- The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
- 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.
- Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
- She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
- 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.
- The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.
- McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
- His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
- 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.
Yes, these analogies are laughingly bad, but they’re also like A Christmas Prince on Netflix, as in, they’re so bad, they’re good. It takes some skill and cleverness to come up similes this funny. It also takes a little life experience.
For instance, take #11: 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.
What high school students know about 30 year marriages disintegrating due to infidelity, or for that matter, surcharges at ATMs? This simile reeks of life experience.
Other analogies in this list suggest a familiarity with tedium that many high school students do not have to deal with. Like #14: His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free. As an adult, it took me a while to understand the importance of using fabric softener, and I still don’t know that I could create an apt comparison regarding thoughts and alliances.
And what about #9: Her vocabulary was as bad as like, whatever. That sounds like it’s making fun of a high school student, not written by one.
Anyway, many of these analogies are actually really GOOD.
How do I know? Well, I once found a “bad analogy” writing contest and I tried to come up with a good entry. I struggled. I consider simile and metaphor writing one of my strengths as a writer, and I used to write comedy long ago, so you would think it would come naturally to me. But it totally did not.
So, hats off if these were actually written by high school students; they are more talented writers than me. Hats off to whomever wrote them.
One more thing: The only funnier analogy than the ones listed here that I’ve come across recently is from the movie Knives Out, when Beniot Blanc said:
A doughnut hole in the doughnut’s hole. But we must look a little closer. And when we do, we see that the doughnut hole has a hole in its center – it is not a doughnut hole at all but a smaller doughnut with its own hole, and our doughnut is not whole at all!
Now, I laughed hard throughout that whole movie, but my husband thought I would have a fit when the doughnut hole speech happened. I guess as a writer/reader/English teacher I have a real love for good analogies, or for analogies that are so bad, they’re good. I feel that doughnut hole speech alone is reason enough for it to have been nominated for best screen play, and it only reinforces my point, that writing something so bad, it’s good, takes skill!