10

I am looking for an idiomatic expression to describe the comparison of things which is so true and vivid. For example:

A: "Mainland China and Taiwan are like brothers fighting each other for who should be the legal owner of the family house: Taiwan is small and weak, so he just has a bedroom, while PRC have the rest of the house. "

B: You are right, that's___(a very ? metaphor/analogy/simile ?)

Mainland China and Taiwan are not real 'brothers', it's just a comparison, and B want to describe A's comparison as true and vivid, what's the idiomatic expression for that? B strongly agrees with A's analogy and thinks it's just the analogy he wants for that situation.

27

You could say

That is an apt metaphor.

Or

That is an apt comparison|analogy.

  • 2
    I agree with apt, but does the inclusion of the word like mean that it's a simile, not a metaphor? xkcd.com/762 – Mike Harris Jul 14 '17 at 14:38
  • 1
    You can call the scenario "brothers fighting each other for who should be the legal owner of the family house" a metaphor even though it was introduced with like. When discussing tropes in a poem, say, you might be expected to make a distinction between simile and metaphor. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 14 '17 at 14:48
  • 2
    @T Indeed. That xkcd comic perfectly lampoons the high school English nugget of wisdom about the word "like" :) – Luke Sawczak Jul 14 '17 at 15:04
  • 4
    @user239460 : Because the word metaphor can be used in a broad sense to refer to figurative language or analogy and in a narrower sense like the one it has in lit-crit contexts. I'm not saying it must be called a metaphor here -- but I would object to the view that says it can't be called a metaphor here. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 14 '17 at 15:10
  • 1
    @user239640: We might reject an analogy on the grounds that the structures of the comparands are too dissimilar; we might reject a metaphor on the grounds that the metaphor fails to capture some essential truth of the thing. They shade into each other. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 14 '17 at 17:25
18

I think the other answers are sufficient, but in order to avoid a long comment thread, I'll also make an answer out of the various options I proposed.

There are a few things we might praise about a given comparison, and some of them overlap.

Accurate

accurate, true: The analogy is true and correct; it doesn't give a false impression.

precise, exact: Every detail of the analogy corresponds to a detail in reality.

Fitting

apt, fitting: Not only does the analogy make sense, but it's also the right kind of thing to compare with the real situation. There may not be a better analogy to make, because the reality suggests the comparison so strongly.

well-chosen, well-suited, appropriate: The analogy is right for the particular context where it was made. The person making the analogy used sound judgement.

Informative

illuminating, enlightening, revealing: Because of the analogy, you learn something new. Without the analogy, you wouldn't have realized something about the reality.

useful, helpful, clear: The analogy explains something that was unclear or difficult to understand. It helps you move forward.

Vivid

vivid, striking: The analogy employs a surprising image that has a strong emotional effect.

surprising, colourful: The analogy is one you wouldn't have thought was appropriate. The person who made it is very imaginative.

Good

good, great: The analogy works. It makes sense and does the job it was supposed to do.

perfect: The analogy is exactly what you had in mind. It combines most or all of the other qualities. :)


In a conversational setting, I think the last group is the most common. So if B is simply praising A in a general way, he could say, "You're right, that's a perfect analogy!"

But if B wanted to praise a particular quality of the analogy, he could use a word from one of the other groups. And those don't all imply each other.

— Dear, your analogy about the bedroom was colourful, but it wasn't very well-chosen in polite company.

— Did you just say that houses are like medium-sized buildings that people live in? Well, that analogy is too precise... it isn't illuminating at all!

— My professor said that object-oriented programming is like having code that represents real-world objects, like cars and humans. That was a very helpful analogy when I was a beginner, but as I learned more, I realized it wasn't very accurate.

  • thanks for your comprehensive answer. i think English is a bit more precise than my mother language in expression. in my question, we might usually just say: 生动的比喻。this could apply in many analogy situation. – user239460 Jul 14 '17 at 16:15
  • @user239460 Sometimes it takes more words, sometimes less, but I believe languages can all express the same things. Just not always in the same amount of space! But now that you cite that expression, I think I understand better why you're having trouble accepting any one suggestion. I don't think any of these words captures both "vivid" and "apt" unless it's "perfect", which is more general than either "vivid" or "apt"... – Luke Sawczak Jul 14 '17 at 16:17
  • 1
    "Perfect" is perfect in this case. – barbecue Jul 14 '17 at 16:34
  • 1
    @user239460 As Tᴚoɯɐuo said, the differences rarely enter everyday use. Often "metaphor" and "simile" refer to a single comparison, while "analogy" could be a longer story. Some people argue that a metaphor says "An A is a B" whereas a simile says "An A is like a B". I would call A's comparison an analogy because he takes the time to develop it. A pedant might add that the first sentence of A's analogy is a simile ("like") and the second sentence of his analogy is a metaphor ("is"). But the XKCD comic Mike linked to shows that we often find these distinctions more confusing than useful! – Luke Sawczak Jul 14 '17 at 16:43
  • 1
    @user239460 A metaphor or simile is usually just one image or comparison, but an analogy can be a longer "story". You could spend a paragraph making a good analogy, but a metaphor that was a paragraph long would probably be too elaborate. "The salesman was as crafty as a fox" is a simile, but "Like a fox rooting a smaller animal out of its burrow through guile and craftiness, the salesman tried to win me over by deception more than anything else" is an analogy. In an analogy, it takes time to construct the two parallel situations. (But again, we usually don't draw the line so exactly.) – Luke Sawczak Jul 15 '17 at 17:01
6

If you're looking for an idiom that is vivid and expresses accuracy, the best I can think of would be:

You've hit the nail on the head.

You can also say the following which is vivid idiom, but does not address accuracy in any way.

That's a very colorful way of putting it.

"Apt metaphor", while completely correct, is just standard English.

  • 1
    As long as OP understands that "colorful" does not speak to a metaphor's accuracy at all, it speaks only to how interesting/memorable/vivid it is. A "colorful" metaphor might be apt, or it might not. – BradC Jul 14 '17 at 17:22
  • @BradC thanks for your remind. i think boatseller's expression sound quite idiomatic in daily life conversation. though it might not carrying accuracy connotation. – user239460 Jul 15 '17 at 9:03
5

Apt, appropriate, apropos, fitting, apposite, proper, seemly, and a few others.

That's an appropriate metaphor

That comparison is apropos.

That's an apt comparison.

What a fitting analogy!

Etc. In this case I would go with apt.

  • Hmm... I wonder if "seemly" means "in good taste" nowadays due to the development of "unseemly"? – Luke Sawczak Jul 14 '17 at 14:45
  • 1
    @LukeSawczak I personally wouldn't use "seemly", it sounds too Downton Abbey for this poor American. :) – Andrew Jul 14 '17 at 14:49
  • @Andrew poor American? what does that mean? – user239460 Jul 14 '17 at 15:50
  • 2
    @user239460 Downton Abbey is a popular television show about the lives of an aristocratic British family and their household, set in the early part of the 20th century. Many of the characters talk using "posh" accents and grammar structures which are natural for the wealthy British nobility of that time. I am poor, and I am American, so I don't talk like that. – Andrew Jul 14 '17 at 15:55
2

You would just have to word this according to 1st/2nd/3rd person perspective, but here's what I thought of:

You've read my mind.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.