I’m not sure when it was in my schooling that we were taught metaphors and similes. For reasons that seem out of proportion to the problem, I could not "get" the metaphor. I think it must have been in the explanation from the teacher, for a metaphor is simply saying one thing is another, often an exaggerated way to get a point across; for example, “a sea of troubles.” The is clear –- both the explanation and the sample.

I think the explanation must have been for older students—or better students than I—because, for the life of me, I was bewildered by the formal definition: a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance.

When I finally “got it,” I must have been a sophomore in college, and I became crazy about metaphors in no time at all. I used them to send me off to sleep; I became a bore to others; people ran from me like they do from punsters. The love affair still stirs me, however little it does for my social life. Metaphoring has made me hyperbolic, but such is life. At least I wasn’t made crabby, which life tends to do to many, no matter how one searches for ways to escape it. I am mightily affected by the metaphor, and I am happy for it.

Besides Shakespeare, possibly the greatest meta-metaphorer of all time, I have discovered two books in my reading that are practically metaphors from beginning to end. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God was published in 1937; and Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End, 2016. They are both worth the read for the stories, but I reread to wallow in their mastery of the metaphor.

At some point in my writing career, I wrote metaphors to publish (which I did not), and so I simply continued and became the readership of one.

People metaphors

A bubble of scuba divers
An exaggeration of admen
A flab of old men
A study of students
An instruction of professors
A sleuth of detectives
An attitude of Valley girls
A pain of dentists
A guess of imposters
A communion of priests
A mess of cooks A meander of tourists
A probing of doctors
A fall of skydivers
A rash of daredevils
A tally of accountants
An unctuousness of salesmen
A ragtag of poor
A wimple of nuns
A melancholy of Irish
A spirit of saints
A ghost of ancestors
An ostentation of Fortune 500s
An ignorance of rednecks
A tattle of gossips
A glimpse of strippers
When I couldn’t sleep, I expanded my categories:

Animal metaphors

A hug of Koalas
A howl of hyenas
A chuckle of monkeys
An unblinking of owls
A leap of kangaroos
A hop of bunnies
A creep of snails
A shuffle of turtles
A thunder of bison
A piddle of puppies
A chatter of magpies
An essence of skunks
A rash of mosquitos
A gossip of birds
A slither of snakes
A hope of doves
A stretch of giraffes
A brush of bats
A dig of dinosaurs
A lurk of foxes
A stealth of coyotes
A bark of dogs
A flutter of butterflies
A spot of leopards
A stripe of tigers
A huddle of walruses
A tangle of octopuses
A convocation of buzzards...

...which turned into a poem for my child

A hug of koalas
Chomps eucalyptus leaves
Above a web of spiders
Dangling in the breeze.
A chatter of monkeys
Joins a swing of chimps
When they get together
They’re as devilish as imps
A slither of snakes
Makes some people nervous
But from afar
They serve a definite purpose
A stretch of giraffes
The tallest of animals
Turns their heads very stiffly
As if they’re mechanicals
A lurk of foxes
Dashes to ground
Before riders on horses
And a chase of hounds
A meditation of owls
Peers down from on high
These guys look so holy
They make angels sigh
A creep of snails
Leaves a trail on the walk
But only at night
Sen dries snails into rock
A pink of piglets
Makes good pets they say
But if they asked me
I’d have to say ‘Nay!’
A piddle of puppies
Is more up my alley
I’d take two at least
And call them Silly and Sally
To live with my nine cats
Which I call an indolence
Cats are so sure of life
They’re nearly grandiloquent
A pose of flamingos
In the yard is fantastic
When a stealth of coyotes
Discovers they’re plastic
A hop of bunnies
Will charm every child
But a jump of kangaroos
Might make the mommas wild
A shadow of bats
Will swing by at dusk
And an essence of skunks
Will warn them with musk
For a promise of doves
Wheeling toward peace
We’ll pray before bedtime
No more war, a final cease
We’ll lie on our pillows
And dream of past days
Of tar pits of dinosaurs
And haunts of pterodactyl ways
We’ll dream of our favorites
Wake to a titter of birds
The blue jay, the goldfinch
And the myna, with words.

Metaphors of professionals


A brief of lawyers
A summation of lawyers
An argument of lawyers
An arrogance of lawyers


A toolbox of carpenters
A measurement of carpenters
A chalk of carpenters
A shim of carpenters


A costume of actors
A dialogue of actors
A memorization of actors
A soliloquy of actors


A toque of chefs
An apron of chefs
A spoon of chefs
A menu of chefs

These, too, invited a poem

Oh, the collectives of creative folk
For eons untold
Used the invisible muse
For words and brush stokes bold
And abstracts of artists
In oxblood and vermeil
Splash tales of heart and soul
That move the commonweal
As the impression of painters
Calmly soothes the eyes
And the cubist of moderns
Squares off and mystifies
While a meter of poets
Metaphors and similes
Revealing god in verse
Their souls’ epiphanies
A score of composers
Presents nightingales at dawn
Making music for our dreams
Offering surcease and balm
And a prolix of prosists
Scribbling madly through their days
Intrigues us with romance
And humankinds’ fey ways
This solitude of writers
Comes in guises forlorn
They are exposer of princes
They are bards of porn
But they’re also enlightening
Those profundities of pundits
And offer us escape
Those deceivers of who-dun-its
A knowing of editors
Keeps tomes of wordsmiths in line
With a proof of copy editors
Kept around to refine
But beware the cry of critics
Always primed to offer grief
To the ever hopeful artist
The marketplace naif

The metaphor is a way of life (that’s a metaphor for you) that pursues the metaphorist like a peeper: after a very short time of paying attention to the figure of speech that compares one thing to another, one can be hooked, suddenly listening for the apt metaphor to the left and right, at the bar, at the cocktail party, alone in the car, at the bus stop, catching a phrase here, an even better one there—it tempers, it categorizes, it goes beyond to hilarity; it becomes a way of life that keeps one interested in life. When trapped in a conversation in which the speaker never takes a breath, and therefore you never get to speak at all, making up metaphors comes in handy; if caught in traffic with no book in the car and the radio reception spluttering, one can list metaphors alphabetically—an apple of his eye, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, etcetera; when at church, if you don’t do something with your brain, you’ll soon be snoring and embarrass yourself, so metaphor your way through the paralyzing sermons.

And best of all, when you can’t get to sleep, don’t count sheep, metaphor! It will ease you into dreaming happily through the night; pursuing words can be exciting or soporific, however you use the application.