Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

grammar & usage

 

A simile is a figure of speech that compares two essentially different objects or ideas, expressly indicated by words such as like or as, as in

  • O my love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June. O my love is like the melody that’s sweetly played in tune. –Robert Burns
  • What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / Like a raisin in the sun? / Or fester like a sore / — And then run? –Langston Hughes
  • Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. –Winston Groom
  • Life is like a dog sled race. If you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes.

I have often been asked, “In the simile happy as a clam, why are clams so happy?”

To arrive at an answer, one needs to know that the expression is elliptical; that is, something is left out. When we discover the missing part, we unlock the origin and true meaning of the phrase. As it turns out, happy as a clam is little more than half of the original saying, the full simile being happy as a clam at high tide. A clam at high tide is sensibly happy because, in high water, humans can’t capture the shellfish to mince, steam, bake, stuff, casinoed, or Rockefeller it, and high tide brings small yummy organisms to the mollusk.

Similarly, although we usually say, the proof is in the pudding, the full explanation is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And to harp on, meaning “to dwell on the same topic,” is in fact a shortening of the old phrase to harp on one string, which meant “to play the same note on a harp string over and over.”

Finally, we may well wonder why people say naked as a jaybird when jaybirds are covered with feathers. Here’s the first printed citation, in 1893, of naked as a jaybird: “He will have the humbug qualifications of a cowboy stripped from his poor worthless carcass so quickly that he would feel like a jaybird with his tail feathers gone.” Turns out, therefore, that a jaybird is naked only when some of its nether plumage is missing.

Because animals can’t hire aggressive public relations departments, they often get bum raps in many of our common similes.

Blind as a bat. Actually, bats have supersharp night vision, using echolocation, a form of natural sonar, to find their way around.

Sweat like a pig. Unlike humans, who perspire through approximately 2.6 million sweat glands, pigs possess zero sweat glands, so they can’t sweat at all. Instead, they cool off by rolling around in mud.

Slimy as a snake. Although a snake’s scales are shiny and may appear slimy, the reptile’s body is dry to the touch. Many amphibians, such as frogs, are slimy, but snakes aren’t.                                                                       

Speaking of similes, one Judge Martin J. Sheehan, of Kenton Circuit Court, Kentucky, waxed similitudinously about the settlement of a case that had been scheduled to go to trial earlier:

 And such news of an amicable settlement having made this court happier than a tick on a fat dog because it is otherwise busier than a one-legged cat in a sand box and, quite frankly, would have rather jumped naked off of a 12-foot step ladder and into a five-gallon bucket of porcupines than have presided over a two-week trial of the herein dispute, a trial which, no doubt, would have made the jury more confused than a hungry baby in a topless bar and made the parties and their attorneys madder than mosquitoes in a mannequin factory.

I now bid you adieu with a series of punderful similes: I’m going to make like a tree and leave, make like a bee and buzz off, make like an airplane and take off, make like an amoeba and split, make like a nose and run and blow, make like a dog and flea, make like a nut and bolt, make like the Red Sea and part, make like a tire and hit the road, make like a hat and go on a head, make like a bakery truck and haul buns, make like a baby and head out, make like Houdini and disappear, make like Johann Strauss and waltz out of here, make like Michael Jackson and “Beat It!” make like Ella Fitzgerald and scat and make like an Amazon customer and say, “Good buy!”