Painfully Bad Analogies, or Why English Teachers Die Young


Why English Teachers Die Young

Maybe you’ve seen this list. It often goes by the title “Why English Teachers Die Young.” It’s been passed around by email for years now. They are hysterically bad. But would you find them less humorous if you knew they weren’t really submitted by high school students?

According to, this list and others like it are actually taken from contests held by The Washington Post in which they asked contestants to come up with “lame” and “painfully bad” metaphors and analogies. It’s in a section they call the Style Invitational. The list below is a selection from entries. Most likely none of them are by high school students, much less submitted as a part of an actual class assignment.

It doesn’t matter to me. I think they are funny even if they are written by people trying to be funny. It takes talent to write this badly. Enjoy!

  1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
  2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
  3. 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.
  4. She grew on him like he was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
  5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
  6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  7. He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.
  8. The knowledge that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of┬á his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.
  9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
  11. 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
  12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
  13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
  14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
  15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.
  16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.
  18. Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
  19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
  20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
  21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  22. 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.
  23. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
  24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.
  25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.
  26. Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any pH cleanser.
  27. She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.
  28. It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

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About the Author

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

  1. Samantha

    The ballerina and the dog at the fire hydrant is by far my favorite!! Lol lol

  2. lynn c. nito
    lynn c. nito01-21-2013

    Loved this but I agree number 9 could be an Adams fan. The quote is, “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.” One of my other favorites, “For a moment nothing happened. Then, after a moment or two, nothing continued to happen.” He was a genius.

  3. Hannah

    Almost died laughing.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko12-11-2012

      Whew! I’m glad it was almost. I would have felt responsible! ­čÖé

  4. Genius.

    I believe a variation of number nine, “Exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t”, was used in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko12-05-2012

      I haven’t read it, but that sounds possible. Let me know if you find the quote, Genius.

  5. Laurel-Manette

    Haha!! This is P.G. Wodehouse all the way! Hilarious

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