Monday Metaphor Musings, #2: Are you a Tiger or a Turtle? A Hammer or a Nail? A Piano or a Piccolo?

Have you ever found yourself describing people with these cliches? Do you know individuals like this?

  • “That kid’s a tornado. He leaves a mess in every room he passes through.”
  • “She’s as busy as a beaver.”
  • “She’s the queen bee.”
  • “He’s as relentless as a jackhammer.”
  • “He works like a horse.”
  • “He’s a bull in a china shop.”

Metaphorically speaking . . .

Besides using our cliches, we’re constantly finding new ways to describe people, things, or situations, often in terms of similes and metaphors. It’s natural to make these connections. Kids are practically born doing it.

Today we’re going to come up with some fresh, non-cliche comparisons.

Just for clarification, in case it’s been a while . . .

A SIMILE is a comparison between 2 unlike things, using the word like or as.

For example, Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote “Candle in the Wind” to describe Marilyn Monroe:

“And it seemed to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind,
Never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in . . .”

A METAPHOR is an implied comparison between 2 unlike things WITHOUT using like or as.

An example, still from the same song:

“Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did.”

In this case, the comparison is implied. There’s no like or as. The candle is Marilyn’s life, snuffed out too soon.

The Bible is full of similes and metaphors:

  • In Psalm 1, the righteous man is like a tree planted by streams of water.
  • God is described as an Eagle, a Rock, Fortress, and Water, to name a few.
  • Jesus calls Himself Bread, Light, Shepherd, Door, and Vine. He is referred to as both a Lion and a Lamb.
  • The kingdom of heaven is compared to a grain of a mustard seed, leaven, treasure, a merchant seeking goodly pearls, and a net cast into the sea.

Each comparison brings out an important aspect of the person, place, or thing being described.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m using the word metaphor as an overarching umbrella that covers both similes and metaphors. (Did you catch my umbrella metaphor?)

Today I want to challenge you to find your own metaphor . . . for YOU!

For starters, consider this:

In which ways are like a tiger? How are you like a turtle?

In other words, which qualities of a tiger do you possess? Which turtle-like traits do you have? Maybe you’re more one than the other. Or a little of both.

Now let’s go a step further. Fill in the blank for any of the sentences below. The main criteria is to be able to say WHY you chose a particular word. (Don’t get bogged down with doing all of these. Just pick a few that work for you.)

If you prefer, use somebody else instead. And later . . . If you really want to take a risk, have someone else fill out these blanks about YOU!

(NOTE: This is about character traits and personality, not necessarily appearances.)

If I (or someone else) were a tree, I (or he/she) would be a ______.
If I were an animal (mammal), I’d be a _____
If I were an insect, I’d be a ______
If I were a tool, I’d be a ______
If I were food, I’d be ______
If I were a flower or plant, I’d be a _____
If I were a fish or sea creature, I’d be a ______
If I were a bird, I’d be a ______
If I were a kitchen/household item, I’d be a _____
If I were an object in nature, I’d be a _____
If I were a musical instrument, I’d be a _____
If I were weather, I’d be  _____

Which of the above do you resemble the most and why?

Another approach . . .

Who comes to mind when you picture the following things?

Pick one or try several. They can be people you know personally, celebrities, historical figures, or film/book characters.

  • storm cloud
  • bulldozer
  • Corvette
  • sunny day/sunshine
  • rainbow
  • perfume
  • ladder
  • lake
  • snow
  • lamppost
  • jazz music
  • something else: _________

Which people in your life can be compared to the following items? Or how do these describe you?

  • magnet
  • hammer
  • sandpaper
  • clock
  • parasite
  • sewing machine
  • teapot
  • book
  • jigsaw puzzle
  • sponge
  • pencil
  • your own idea: __________

Back in creative writing class, students had to cluster their name, then an object or animal for all 6 senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, kinesthetic) to discover their own similarities to that thing. Then they wrote a poem or paragraph beginning with “I am a ____.”

Metaphor, Student sample #1:

I am a pen. I do only what is necessary sometimes, but flourish when the topic is to my liking. I’m emotionless unless pushed. I need a guiding hand, and leave a trail wherever I go.

Metaphor, Student sample #2:

I am a baby Bengal tiger. I dream of being fierce and full of raw power. But when I try to go on my own, I find that I run or trip or I roll down hills and greet the impact of a tree with my chubby face. I dream of big bold stripes that make a big statement on my fur. but instead I have little spots that only made me look like a raisin Danish.

Via Tambako the Jaguar on Visualhunt

Metaphor, Student sample #3:

I am a piano.
I am quiet and motionless,
struck and played with,
responding only as people wish and instruct me to.

I am a piano.
I am ready and willing to respond
In beautiful reposed tunes,
But able to reply in loud repulsive tones
As my feelings are pounded on.

I am a piano.
My music keeps me content and quiet,
Harboring deep feelings and peculiarities,
Allowing only the surface to be revealed,
Yet keeps me singing
Even through my out-of-tune days.

If you’re feeling inspired right now, go ahead and write your own poem or paragraph beginning with “I am a ______.”

What object or animal are you similar to? Are you a lion or a lizard? A tiger or a turtle? A hammer or a nail? A piano or a piccolo or a drum? Or the drumsticks? Or something else? Tell me what and why!

Please add your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Ever musing,


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6 thoughts on “Monday Metaphor Musings, #2: Are you a Tiger or a Turtle? A Hammer or a Nail? A Piano or a Piccolo?

  1. I’m not exactly sure what metaphor describes me best, but based on what I’m feeling right now, I wouldn’t mind being a (male) lion that can sleep all day while the lionesses do all the hunting. That’s my metaphorical way of saying, “I’m tired!” Does that work? LOL.

    1. Of course that works! You bring up a good point. Our moods and circumstances change enough so that not just one animal or object fits as a symbol for us across the board. Maybe we’re too complex for that. Some days I’m a turtle and other days I’m a Mexican jumping bean. Any other examples out there?

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