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analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 7:10 pm
by chambooca
To this day, i still can not put my fingers around the difference between an analogy and a metaphor. I have looked at their definitions but they seem to be the same to me?

Can anyone explain the difference to me, with a clear example of each?

(see posting 'simile and metaphor')

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 7:50 pm
by Phil White
The fact that this has been posted for 24 hours without a reply suggests that none of us can think of anything really pithy to say to help you. I shall have a stab at it (and add the term "simile" for completeness).

An analogy, a metaphor and a simile are all used to draw attention to similarities and parallels between different things. To deal with the easy ones first:

We call something a simile when we say that one thing is like another and actually use the word "like" or "as". ("Fog covered the south of England like a thick blanket", "He left the starting blocks like a frightened gazelle".)

We call something a metaphor when we speak figuratively to describe something, in other words when we speak as if one thing is another thing. ("A sodden yellow eiderdown covered the south of England this morning", "He exploded out of the starting blocks.)

An analogy is usually used when we are trying to explain something complex and use something familiar as an example. ("You can imagine an atom as being like our solar system. The nucleus is the sun and the electrons are the planets orbiting round it.")

In my example of an analogy, I in fact used a simile and two metaphors to construct the analogy.

Ultimately, an analogy is a general term to refer to the use of familiar examples in order to explain something which is generally unfamiliar. The terms metaphor and simile describe the linguistic means that we use to draw an analogy (as most analogies use either metaphors or similes to achieve their purpose).

Another way of looking at it is that metaphor uses "is", simile uses "is like" and analogy uses "as if", thus:
"His new boss was a pig."
"She looked at him like he had just farted in the presence of royalty."
"Trying to restore my hard disk using the instructions provided was as if somebody had given me an elastic band and two paper clips and told me to make a working model of the space shuttle."

Analogies, as commonly used, are often more extensive than similes or metaphors. Critically, there is an underlying assumption when using an analogy that if one thing resembles another in some respects, it will also resemble it in other respects. If it doesn't, then we say that the analogy breaks down. One common analogy is between the way water moves in waves and the way light travels. The underlying implication is that the surface resemblances reflect a deeper similarity. We are being invited to draw conclusions about the similarities in a way that we are not with a simple metaphor or simile. If we see that water behaves in this way, we can expect light to behave in this way also. It is now known that that particular analogy breaks down under some conditions, but for many purposes, it still holds. With my simile above, I am not inviting readers to think of other ways in which a sprinter is like a gazelle (the simile doesn't break down because a sprinter only has two legs and no horns). Likewise, with the metaphor, I am not inviting readers to experiment with the way in which a sodden yellow eiderdown behaves on a cold November morning in the UK. With the analogy, however, I am inviting readers to look for further similarities until the analogy breaks down.

One final point, and perhaps Ken or someone else can help me out with this one, the term analogy has a very specific meaning in mathematics and logic. It describes one relationship in terms of another, i.e. the classic "A is to B as X is to Y" or "Napster is to music as a lumberjack is to a rain forest". Again, we are being invited to push the comparison as far as it will go. Effectively, my very first analogy also boils down to this form: "an electron is to a nucleus as a planet is to the sun".

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 8:41 pm
by chambooca
enough said.

Thank You. That was definitely well explained. With good examples.

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Sun Feb 06, 2005 6:50 pm
by Ken Greenwald
Phil, As far as I know there is nothing more to it than what you have already said. In math and logic ‘analogy,’ also often called a proportionality, is a proportion or agreement of ratios a/b = c/d. “An ANALOGY is ‘an agreement or likeness between’ two ratios in respect of the quantitative contrast between each antecedent and its consequent.” (OED)

Ken – February 6, 2004

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Sun Feb 06, 2005 11:07 pm
by Phil White
... which is why I asked you. I'm glad you appear to understand the definition. ;-)

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Sun Feb 06, 2005 11:30 pm
by Ken Greenwald
Phil, In case you didn’t catch it, I was just pointing out to you non-math types the correspondence of the logical ‘as’ (i.e. ‘:’) to the mathematical ‘equal’ sign (i.e. ‘=’). (&lt)

Ken – February 6, 2005

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:09 pm
by Edwin Ashworth
Phil's "analogy" for atomic structure is more usually referred to as a "model"; an equation put forward to describe structure/behaviour would be a more sophisticated example.
Related words often used in hermeneutics are
ALLEGORY : an extended, often colourful analogy, with several correspondences between the story and the real situation it largely parallels and fosters appreciation of
PARABLE : a fairly extended analogy, usually with just one point of correspondence - though further false correspondences are inevitably claimed
and I seem to remember seeing a claim that there is a non-mathematical usage of the word
PARABOLA : an instruction using a metaphor (eg "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees")

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:25 am
by Ken Greenwald
Edwin, HERMENEUTICS is a new one on me. I’m familiar with ‘exegesis’ and, at first glance, I would have said they were synonyms, except that the dictionaries makes a distinction, which I guess is that ‘hermeneutics’ is more on a general principals and methodology level and ‘exegesis’ is more down in the trenches at the word, sentence, passage level.

HERMENEUTICS noun : The study of the methodological principles of interpretation and explanation, specifically, the study of the general principles of biblical interpretation.

HERMENEUTIC adjective: Belonging to or concerned with interpretation, especially as distinguished from exegesis or practical exposition

Etymology: [1800–10] from Greek ‘hermeneutikós’ of, skilled in, interpreting, equivalent to ‘hermeneu(ein)’ to make clear, interpret (derivative of ‘hermeneus’ an interpreter, itself derivative of Hermes, messenger of the Gods) + -tikos -TIC]

EXEGESIS noun: Explanation, exposition (of a sentence, word, etc.), especially, the interpretation of Scripture or a Scriptural passage.

Etymology: [1610-20] New Latin, from Greek ‘exegesis,’ from ‘exegeisthai,’ to explain, interpret, from ‘ex,’ out of, out + ‘hegeisthai,’ to lead, guide

(Oxford English Dictionary, Random House and Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)

Ken – March 15, 2005

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 4:49 pm
by Edwin Ashworth
Ken, I think you're spot on with the distinction.
I know at least one person who always claims to read the Bible "in the Holy Spirit" - the last person who could really make that claim made a rather larger impact! I claim to use the method the early apostles (-to-be) did - "after the crowd had dispersed, they asked Jesus, 'What were you talking about?' "
A man named Harold Eberle has written an intriguing book, "The Sword of the Spirit", in which he says that there are four main Schools of hermeneutics, and that many individuals and even denominations tend to favour one at the unwarranted expense of the others. They are the FUNDAMENTALIST, EVANGELICAL, LIBERAL and ALLEGORICAL Schools. They have obvious strengths - the liberally-orientated will be helping a single parent with everyday necessities rather than constantly preaching, for example.
It's amusing to imagine how inflexible adherents to each ideology would handle the Book of Jonah:
Two fundamentalists would spend their days arguing over whether Jonah was swallowed by a whale or a big fish.
The evangelicals would say that the main point of the story is the importance of preaching the gospel - to Nineveh - and rush off to board the boat. To Tarshish. Without tickets. Or phrase-books.
The liberals would say that God wants us to mount a save-the-whale campaign.
And the allegoricists would say the passage obviously foreshadows the Welsh Revival (Wales and Miner Prophets).

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 3:05 am
by Erik_Kowal
I suppose it is the Miner Prophets that have made Humpbacked Wales possible... Bob?

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 9:09 am
by Bobinwales
It's an underground movement.

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 12:43 pm
by Erik_Kowal
Is this a case of 'bowels within Earth's bowels'?

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Sat Mar 19, 2005 8:27 am
by Edwin Ashworth
The Welsh have bowels not in general use in England. Which would suggest that wind-power should be a force to be reckoned with now that the coal is running out.

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 8:42 pm
by Bobinwales
We still have coal, but no real way of getting at it now that the pits have closed, and no-one wants open-cast. The row going on between pro and anti wind farmers is heating up to a level where we will probably be able to generate electricity by harnessing the hot air generated by both sides.

analogy vs metaphor

Posted: Wed Mar 23, 2005 4:38 pm
by Edwin Ashworth
We can probably run most things off the emissions from telephone masts.