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Why English Teachers Die Young

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Circulating via email, a list of fractured similes and metaphors allegedly found in high school essays by English teachers from across the U.S.

Description: Forwarded email
Circulating since: 1999
Status: Mislabeled

Example:
Email text contributed by Laura G., July 20, 2008:

Subject: Why English Teachers Die Young

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays.

These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers.

Here are last year's winners.....

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 she 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 revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

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, Granddad 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.



Analysis: If most of these fractured bon mots seem too clever to have been accidentally conceived by high school essayists, that's because they weren't. They were entries in a long-running Washington Post contest launched in 1993 called "The Syle Invitational."

Among other literary challenges, readers have been invited to compose intentionally humorous similes and metaphors, often centered around particular themes. Most of the examples above were published in 1995 and 1999.


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Sources and further reading:

The Style Invitational: Week 120: Simile Outrageous
Washington Post, 23 July 1995

The Style Invitational: Week 310: It's Like This
Washington Post, 14 March 1999

The Style Invitational: Week 705: Simile Outrageous
Washington Post, 18 March 2007

The Style Invitational
Wikipedia


Last updated: 07/21/08

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