I’m very selective when it comes to identifying mentors and role models. I can only think of a handful of people who I’d give that label. One guy who gets a lot of credit for whatever writing skills I might have is my high school English Teacher, Tony Russo. Tony not only taught me to write, he taught me to think. I’ve occasionally speculated that he might have regretted doing so during some class discussions and debates on topics ranging from Hamlet to academic freedom. Fortunately here we are some 45 years later and he and I are still in contact.
One of the running amusements we share is that after all these years I still have trouble keeping analogies, metaphors, and similies straight. So it perhaps will come as no surprise that when I recently reported being as “busy as a one-armed paper-hanger with diarrehea,” I also confessed that I wasn’t sure which it was. Here is Tony’s response:
Here’s the thing, you have created an analogy to describe your current situation, i.e. you are currently as busy as, but you are not actually, a one-armed paperhanger with diarrhea. On the other hand, metaphorically speaking, you have replaced yourself with the one-armed paperhanger with diarrhea, thus creating a metaphor. I’ll bet you had no idea that you were so agile with turning a phrase. My advice, don’t sweat the small stuff. 99 and 44/100ths% of your readers will never know the difference anyway, and even if they do, they really don’t give a shit, no pun intended, but I must admit that if one were intended, it wouldn’t be all that bad.
I would observe that I am not the only one who is agile with turning a phrase… and I’m a bit relieved that I apparently no longer need to worry about whether I’m using a metaphor, analogy, or simile.
But I’ll bet I do.