As Cliche as a Simile

33

Dangling word

Similes are, as you probably know, figures of speech that compare two things or ideas using the words “like” or “as.”

I wonder about the originators of similes like “straight as an arrow” or “fit as a fiddle.” They were probably pretty proud of themselves (maybe even proud as peacocks). Everyone must have admired their cleverness and creativity. Zoom ahead a hundred years or so, however, and expressions like these have grown old and stale. Poor guys. We’ve worn their similes threadbare.

There’s nothing wrong, I suppose, with a writer resorting to an occasional simile cliche. The familiarity can be useful if you are not trying to draw too much attention to your linguistic cleverness. But the best writers are masters of the startling simile.

I always liked these from Anne Sexton’s poem “Courage”:

A child’s first step/as awesome as an earthquake
love as simple as shaving soap

Or this from T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock”:

Let us go then, you and I,/When the evening is spread out against the sky/Like a patient etherised upon a table

Remember this irritatingly memorable simile from Forrest Gump?

Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.

Good writers excel at creating original similes. Relying too much on the everyday comparison is a too often a sign of literary laziness.

See how you do at completing the cliched similes listed below. I’ll provide the answers in a later post. Keep in mind that some of these have more than one “right” answer. And also remember that the degree to which these will be familiar to you may depend upon your age and where you live.

When you’re done, give me some I’ve gotten wrong or left out.

Finish These Common Similes

1. happy as
2. fresh as a
3. dead as a
4. white as
5. light as a
6. pretty as a
7. neat as a
8. blind as a
9. busy as a
10. clean as a
11. cool as a
12. crazy as a
13. cute as a
14. high as a
15. mad as a
16. old as
17. plain as
18. proud as a
19. quick as
20. quiet as a
21. sharp as a
22. slippery as an
23. silent as
24. slow as
25. smart as
26. sly as a
27. snug as
28. solid as a
29. stubborn as a
30. tight as
31. tough as
32. ugly as
33. wide as
34. good as
35. wise as
36. big as
37. sweet as
38 soft as
39. smooth as
40. bitter as
41. fit as a
42. mad as a wet
43. drunk as a
44. dull as
45. free as a
46. ugly as
47. naked as a
48. funny as a
49. easy as
50. nutty as a

*****

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About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

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  20. Merri
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    Brian,
    Thank you for providing a language lesson for my homeschooled children today. The similies they don’t know, they are to look up!
    ~Merri

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko06-08-2011

      I forgot to provide the answers! Sorry. See below…

      1. clam
      2. daisy
      3. doornail (or doorknob)
      4. a ghost, a sheet, snow
      5. feather
      6. picture
      7. pin
      8. bat
      9. beaver, bee
      10. whistle
      11. cucumber
      12. loon
      13. button
      14. kite
      15. hatter
      16. Methuselah, the hills
      17. day, the nose on your face
      18. peacock
      19. lightning, a flash, a wink
      20. mouse
      21. tack
      22. eel
      23. the grave
      24. molasses
      25. a whip
      26. fox
      27. a bug in a rug (or a bug)
      28. a rock
      29. mule
      30. a drum
      31. nails, leather
      32. sin
      33. the ocean
      34. gold
      35. an owl
      36. a house
      37. sugar, honey
      38. a baby’s bottom, cotton
      39. silk
      40. gall
      41. fiddle
      42. hen
      43. skunk
      44. dishwater
      45. bird
      46. sin
      47. jaybird
      48. crutch
      49. pie
      50. fruitcake

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