Metaphors are a figure of speech with a comparison between one thing and another to convey meaning. Usually a metaphor is comparing an actual thing with a figurative thing to explain a figurative concept. For example, ‘she was broken hearted’ doesn’t mean her heart was broken or she had cardiomyopathy but rather that she was hurt, sad and miserable.
Metaphors also have relatives: the simile (cute as a kitten, happy as a clam, fly like an eagle), the hyperbole (you could have knocked me over with a feather, as old as the hills) and the antithesis (Charles Dickens really liked them: ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…’).
All are used to convey meaning and illustrate a point.
Metaphors can be effective, poetic, beautiful and illustrative – here are some great examples. They can also be mangled. Which is of course where the fun starts. My darling husband is a very smart man – he has a masters degree, he has studied physics, he gets the History of Time, he can fix things around the house. He is a great mangler of metaphors. Many moons ago when we were still ‘dating’ and getting to know one another, he accepted my invitation to a BBQ enthusiastically emailing that he’ll be there ‘with boot on!!!’. He came to the BBQ with shoes, no boot, boots or bells either but with said enthusiasm. It’s remained a family joke for years now – the whole clan goes to things with ‘boot on’.
Another, more recent mangling was his reply to ‘what’s taking you so long in there [the bathroom]?’. ‘I’m pimping and pruning!’ Surely not. I would expect more noise. Rather ‘primping and preening’, aka ‘shaving’. Still, a good giggle to start the day.