Similes make us smile.
The previous unit in this set of lessons on Culture Shock discussed the
use of metaphors in the English language. Similes perform the same basic function as
metaphors because they also help us to understand something by comparing two different things.
However, similes use a particular form or structure: similes always use the words like or as to make a connection.
For example, if we wanted to talk about someone who is very tall, we could say:
Metaphor: He is a giraffe.
Simile: He is like a giraffe.
Simile: He is as tall as a giraffe.
It is impossible for a human being to be as tall as a giraffe, but we certainly can understand
how effective it is to describe someone who is very tall in this way.
Many people use similes every day. They are sometimes very difficult to understand because
their meanings are cultural (you have to understand the culture to understand the simile).
Some similes use similar sounds to create meaning.
For this reason similes are very popular with children who like to play with sounds.
The words similar and simile have the same root, and both words mean "like."
Here is another example:
Metaphor: I am a fish out of water.
Simile: I feel like a fish out of water.
Simile: I feel as uncomfortable as a fish out of water.
Let's look at some of the more common similes used in English.