A metaphor is a figure of speech using a word or phrase that usually means one thing to refer to something else. It's an analogy that compares two unlike elements to make a point, a comparison between two things that are not likely or obvious.
"Life is like a pair of red stilettos" is a comparison of two unlike elements to make a point. I'm not exactly certain what the point is, but it's probably very titillating.
However, "Life is like a pair of red stilettos" is actually a simile.
A simile is a comparison of two unlike things using the word "like" or "as" whereas a metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things using a variation of the verb "to be."
And such nonsensical gibberish is the precise reason I majored in mathematics in college rather than anything that involved the precision of the English language. The precision of mathematics is based on logic and reason. The precision of the English language is based on a set of rules made by some pompous Englishman with a persecution complex and limp wrists.
One of my favorite similes was uttered by General Norman Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War when he said, "Going to war without the French is like going deer hunting without an accordion."
Believe it or not, the following is a list of similes and metaphors used in essays by high school students in the land of the free and the home of the brave..
1) He was as tall as a six-foot-three tree.
2) Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
3) The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
4) From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 instead of 7:30.
5) She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
6) John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
7) Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
8) The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.
9) He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.
10) She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 legs missing.
11) He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.
12) He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
One of my old college roommates was a lot like a metaphor. He was as tall as a five-foot-eleven tree and often reminded me of a garbage truck backing up, although I don't recall hearing any bells.
Quote for the Day -- "Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard from no more -- it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Bill Shakespeare
Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where red stilettos are forbidden by law. His blogs appear on several websites, including www.myspace.com/bret1111