On Simile And Metaphor: Same As It Ever Was

Samuel Taylor Coleridge identified the difference between metaphor and simile as a difference of degree.

[caption id="attachment_213823" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Samuel Taylor Coleridge called metaphor “an act of the imagination,” whereas he relegated simile to “an act of fancy.” Photo from National Portrait Gallery, 1795. Public Domain[/caption] You learned in high school that the difference between metaphor and simile is that simile uses like or as. (Of course, it also uses than.) True enough, but that’s like saying that measles are spots on your body. They are, but if you look deeper, the spots are there because a virus is present. There is something more fundamental going on. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called metaphor “an act of the imagination,” whereas he relegated simile to “an act of fancy.” He identified the difference between metaphor and simile as a difference of degree, depending on how much the two ideas shared in common. If they shared only a few, simile. More, metaphor. For Coleridge, this would be a candidate for simile: Like a lobster boil’d, the morn From black to red began to turn A boiled lobster doesn’t have much in common with morning except that they both change from black to red: the morning sunrise reddens the sky, the boiled lobster turns from black to red as it…

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