It has been a cold December day and I am sitting inside wishing for a fire to warm my hands. A pot of chicken broth is bubbling on the stove. Tonight, as I chopped vegetables and threw handfuls of herbs into the pot, I thought about the flavorful liquid that comes from bones and gristle. I could use this soup as a metaphor—a word picture—for being tough and nurturing at the same time, or for finding hope after difficult times. Each of those things is similar to the broth that is made from chicken bones.
When we are at a loss to describe something—motherhood, loss, grief, joy—we naturally compare the abstract concept to something familiar and tangible, such as chicken soup. A metaphor is simply a formal comparison. Metaphors are implied rather than explained using the words “like,” “as,” or “than.” Explicit comparisons are called similes. The difference is easy to remember if you tell yourself that similes tell you the similarity outright. Let us pause to practice using these two new words.