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Main page » Non-Fiction » Science literature » Linguistics » Similes and Their Use


Similes and Their Use

 
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Millions of men and women, ambitious for success in life, eager to get ahead, anxious to make a good impression upon their friends, associates, employers are held back because they cannot command the right word at the right time, because they cannot express in their correspondence, their conversation, their writing what they really want to say. Success in life depends so much upon the self confidence engendered by the mastery over words. Here are several books which will help you to achieve this power-at home, at the office, in school and in your daily work.

If you wish to lend freshness, originality, vividness and accuracy to your written and spoken language-whether it be in a letter, speech, theme, or report-then you should make a study of the art of simile. Not only does this volume tell you when and how to use this useful element of expression, but it contains what is probably the finest collection of classic and modern similes chosen from the vast treasure-house of the English language-both prose and poetical.

 

Every public speaker, writer, poet, correspondent, advertising writer, etc., knows the value of the simile to give vividness and color to his style of expression. Yet no use of ornamentation in the written or spoken language is subject to such dangers and abuses as the simile.

In this book the author tells you how to use the simile, the form and kind to use, and when to avoid it through risk of artificiality and the danger of becoming trite and obvious. He tells you, also, how many of the world's keenest minds have employed the simile successfully, and under the three headings: PROSE, POETRY and BIBLE he gives thousands of the choicest similes in all English literature.

Selection was made with the idea that each simile should be of practical or inspirational value, that threadbare, antiquated, and slangy similes should not be admitted. All in all, it is a work that is well-nigh indispensable to every worker in written words and to every public speaker.

The Simile is generally regarded as a purely poetic accessory-as an artifice which, belonging to the realm of poetry, is sometimes divorced from its proper relationship and forced into the association of prose. Now to a certain extent that is a true conception. Simile is always the product either of the fancy or of the imagination, and is therefore a poetic attribute; but the distinction between poetry and good prose is one that has puzzled the brains of philosophers of almost every age, and it has generally ended in a purely technical definition; for the truth is that the essentials of good poetry and good prose are not very different.

Still, Simile is a poetic ornament mainly, and the similes that leap to one's mind when one hears the word mentioned are nearly always taken from famous poems; one instinctively thinks of such similes as Coleridge's Ancient Mariner,"long and lank and brown as is the ribbed sea-sand," or Shakespeare's schoolboy "creeping like snail unwillingly to school." The reason for this is clear; simile is an imaginative, and therefore poetic, means of giving a vivid description or of expressing a truth. The famous similes of poetry are so numerous that they occur to one of their own accord; for they are generally so just that they have a special life of their own. But they are no less useful and no less beautiful in prose: tho no prose writer could deliberately "sit and play with similes," as Wordsworth did with his daisy, they are sometimes one of the most beautiful and striking means of description possible, and certainly every prose writer-especially prose writers whose aim is both brevity and vividness-should make a study of the art of simile.

 

I say "make a study" quite deliberately, for when you come to ornament it is a matter more of study than of anything else-a study of form, the kind of simile to use; of when to employ it, and how; of when to avoid it; of the kind of simile that should never be used at all; of its values and its dangers.
Now the dangers of simile are many, and the first thing to do is to make sure that you have such an understanding of these that you do not fall into any one of the many pitfalls they present; that once done, you should consider their value, both as a means of ornament and as a means of implying a secondary meaning through association of ideas; and then you will be able to make use of them fearlessly and effectively.

 

The dangers in the use of simile are chiefly these:

 

(1) The fear of giving an air of artificiality to your work.
(2) The risk of engendering a florid style.
(3) The manufacture of "false" simile - that is, one that does not adequately convey your meaning, or which gives an impression only to a few readers.
(4) The use of too obvious similes.
(5) The habit of pressing a simile too far, or insisting too heavily on it.

 

 




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