How Do Metaphors And Extended Metaphors Differ – Both idioms and metaphors are ways of expressing ideas figuratively rather than literally. But are they the same? Can a phrase be both a metaphor and an idiom? Read on to clarify the meaning of each term and learn the key differences between idioms and metaphors.
Both idioms and metaphors are forms of imagery that represent non-literal ways to make your writing more interesting. However, an idiom is a common expression that says something different than what is actually said.
How Do Metaphors And Extended Metaphors Differ
You’ve probably heard these and similar expressions many times. An idiom is a colloquial way of saying something that doesn’t make sense to someone unfamiliar with the language. Saying it “rains cats and dogs” can be confusing to English learners who have never heard the phrase before.
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Metaphor is another form of imagery. Like a simile, a metaphor compares two things that share common characteristics but are otherwise dissimilar.
Like idioms, metaphors are not taken literally. They are often used as a poetic device, adding vitality to poetry. Extended metaphors are more complex versions of metaphors that can appear in fiction and poetry.
So what is the difference between an idiom and a metaphor if both are figurative and not literal? The biggest difference between idioms and metaphors is how they are used. Idioms are mostly nonsense expressions, while metaphors are in stark contrast.
For example, describing a rainy day as “it’s pouring down rain” is an idiom, not a metaphor, because rain isn’t compared to anything meaningful. It’s just a way of saying “it’s raining a lot”. The metaphor to describe a rainy day is “Heaven is a crying child”.
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As you can see, metaphors sound more poetic than idioms. Idioms are more common in everyday language, while metaphors are a more effective way to compare concepts in writing. Authors sometimes rely on idioms because they are well known. However, using too many idioms and not enough metaphors can make a writer appear clichéd.
If you can think of a few exceptions to this rule, there’s a good reason for it. Some metaphors have become so well known that they have practically become idioms themselves.
You might think these common expressions are idioms, but they’re not. Because they are used to compare two things, they are just very common metaphors.
The English language has thousands of common idioms and millions of ways to use metaphors. Now that you know the difference between metaphors and idioms, chances are you’ll notice them everywhere you go! For more idiom help, visit 100 American Idioms to test your knowledge. Extended metaphors are detailed comparisons that span multiple lines, paragraphs, pages, or entire works. Similar to standard metaphors, extended metaphors use figurative language to compare two different but still potentially related things.
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The author uses extended metaphors for various purposes to help his readers understand and relate to the ideas he presents. The versatility of extended metaphors makes them useful literary devices in poems, books, speeches, and lyrics.
Authors incorporate extended metaphors to make complex comparisons, elaborate on themes, present insightful connections, or add humor to their work:
Examples of extended metaphors are everywhere—in famous poetry, literature, speech, and all areas of popular culture.
At first, each path represents a different life choice, but the narrator eventually points out that the two are essentially the same. Frost uses this metaphor to show that people believe their choices are unique and give meaning to their lives.
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The poet highlights the difference between the staircase and the life of the titular mother, emphasizing that her journey is not like climbing a crystal staircase. Instead, “it contained thumbtacks, splinters and torn boards.”
Hughes shows how extended metaphors create conflicting images and help him form the contrast needed to understand the meaning of the poem.
Examples of extended metaphors used in longer literary works are William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
Shakespeare’s Romeo suggests that Juliet, like the “beautiful sun,” can “slay the jealous moon,” representing the pain caused by the rejection of his former love. Juliet has the power to end Romeo’s despair and restore his sight.
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Like Santiago’s battle with aging, the marlin’s struggle to survive is such that the fisherman sees himself in the fish. He recognizes his stamina and dignity. But no matter how hard the Marlins struggled, he succumbed to Santiago’s spears.
Conceit compares two seemingly unrelated objects and then explains how this comparison is valid or related. For some, pride is synonymous with extended metaphors; others, however, see the idea as far-fetched and more complicated.
Renaissance writers such as William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, and John Donne used this extended metaphor.
An extended metaphor consists of two parts: subject and vehicle. The tenor is the original concept, while the vehicle is symbolically a second concept compared to the first.
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In this metaphor, the tenor is the world and the vehicle is the stage. Shakespeare extended the comparison in the monologue, classifying it as an example of extended metaphor due to its length.
Metaphors and extended metaphors are of different lengths. Unlike simple metaphors that can be described in a few sentences (America is a melting pot), extended metaphors span a few lines, paragraphs, or entire poems. Through metaphor, the attributes of one thing are vividly transferred to other things. When I say “Dude, I’m drowning at work” I’m using the qualities associated with one thing – the urgency and helplessness of drowning – to communicate the importance of another – I need to get done work.
The metaphors are everywhere: he’s a couch junkie. She has a heart of gold. This party is the bomb. Money is the root of all evil.
By comparing two unrelated elements, metaphors can bring creativity and clarity to writing and everyday language, allowing us to see things from different perspectives and new perspectives. To quote this from H.P. Lovecraft used graphics to show the limits of our knowledge: “We live on a quiet island of ignorance in the middle of the endless Black Sea, and we have no intention of traveling far.”
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In rhetorical and literary analysis, we often study how authors use metaphors in ways other than phrases. Extended metaphors are metaphors that span multiple sentences. If the metaphor extends throughout the text, it is called a controlling metaphor.
For example, Ralph Ellison expanded the metaphor of “invisibility” to describe how black men and women are often ignored, marginalized, and overshadowed in American society.
So metaphor is not just some stylistic flamboyance that we use at the sentence level. In fact, according to George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, our minds—the conceptual systems we use to think and act—are metaphorical in nature. They are an important part of thinking, so it is wise to pay attention to how they are used.
For a detailed discussion of the two components of a metaphorical comparison, see our article What Are Carriers and Term? course.
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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” offers students many opportunities to identify metaphors (and metonymy) in the narratives of a constrained narrator. Once students identify these metaphors, they can begin to analyze why the narrator may find it easier to think about her situation in metaphorical terms than to state it directly. An implied metaphor is one that compares two things, rather than things, but does not identify either. A direct metaphor consists of two parts: a subject (the original idea) and a medium (the idea being compared), while an implied metaphor does not include the subject.
Although tears are not directly referenced in the second example, the context provides enough information to infer the implicit comparison. Thus the second metaphor is implied.
A metaphor is one that creates a vivid image and adds another layer of meaning.
Examples of metaphors in everyday use in English include comparing people to animals and nature, comparing people to inanimate objects, and comparing inanimate objects to animals and nature.
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Some say the world will end in fire / Some say the world will end in ice. / After I feel the desire, / I join those who love fire. / But if it has to perish twice, / I think I know enough about hate / To say that ice is used for destruction / It’s also great / And it’s enough.
Frost alludes to comparisons between fire and human desire, and ice and hatred. Through this juxtaposition, Frost shows that human desire and hatred are equally destructive.
Timberlake sees a connection between “Sunshine in Your Pocket” and the happiness he feels watching his other half dance.
Welcome to Hotel California / Such a beautiful place (such a beautiful place) / Such a beautiful face / You stayed at Hotel California / What a surprise (what a nice surprise).
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Eagles use Hotel Cal as metaphor for fleeting fame, but no direct comparison
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