Somewhere on the WordPress site, as I was setting up this blog, I came across this quote:
“A metaphor is like a simile.” — Anonymous
Really? it is? how clever! Who came up with that one? I wondered, and went on my merry way. But the question wouldn’t leave me alone.
I went back to find the WordPress page with the quote on it, but of course, it had disappeared. Worse, I couldn’t remember if the quote was exactly as I wrote it above, or if it was the other way around, as in “A simile is like a metaphor” — Anonymous
Darn it. Which was it? Google may be trying to take over the world, but it has its conveniences. I started with “A Metaphor is Like a Simile” and Google found a couple of authors of this quote for me:
There’s the Boston writer and comedian Steven Wright, where the quote shows up on his “Quotable Quotes” Goodreads page, and is attributed to him.
Then I found a lyrical associative one-page-ish playlet called A Metaphor is Like A Simile, with one Aaron Galbraith listed as its author. It apparently debuted on March 26, 1999 and was performed by Aaron Galbraith and James Horak. It’s posted in its apparent entirety on a website called NoShame.org, which, to quote from its mission statement, is “a historical site dedicated to preserving for posterity the goings-on of No Shame Theatre in all its forms.” It was performed in Iowa City, IA though NoShame can be found in many cities around the country. One day when my brain feels more energetic, I’ll try to analyze the script, but tonight is not that night. I liked it, though.
Still, I had not answered the question of original authorship of the quote in question. So I typed “A Simile Is Like A Metaphor” and got pretty much the same results. I think that’s an example of irony.
A metaphor is more certain. It is the thing to which it is being compared. Actually, it equates one thing with another unlike thing, to create a new, third and larger thing, one that is more persuasive than the sum of its parts. A simile is more tentative. Something isn’t something else; it is like something else; it’s an approximation of something else.
I’m going to have to go along with Messrs. Wright and Galbraith and conclude that “A metaphor is like a simile” is the more clever phrasing. The ordering of the approximation best reflects the essence of each term this way.
I’ll put further research into attribution on my to-do list.