Humorous comparisons

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Humorous comparisons

Post by trolley » Sun Jul 29, 2007 8:44 pm

Does anyone know of a single word or definitve descriptive term describing humorous comparisons such as “as blank as a blank”? My old Dad is the master of these sayings. I swear, he has one for every occasion. As cold as a well-diggers arse, as useless as tits on a nun, as dry as a popcorn fart, as sticky as shit on a wool blanket. He must have hundreds. Even now, fifty years later, he can still pull one out of his pocket that I haven’t heard before. Strange old bird. I ‘ve told him that other people collect stamps or coins. He doesn’t care. He’s happy. As happy as a pig in shite, as crazy as an out-house rat, as sharp as ……..

Humorous comparisons

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Jul 29, 2007 10:18 pm

As slick as gooseshit! My eyes feel like two burnt holes in a blanket.
How about smimilies.

Humorous comparisons

Post by dalehileman » Mon Jul 30, 2007 3:24 pm

tr: If you haven't already been there, maybe here's a start

Humorous comparisons

Post by Phil White » Fri Aug 17, 2007 8:58 pm

Not sure that there is a definitive term for humourous similes.

Not the same thing, but I love one of Douglas Adams' favourite techniques. Sort of "counter-similes", I suppose.
"As sane as an emu on acid"
"hung in the air in much the same way a brick doesn't"
and countless other variations in content and form.
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Humorous comparisons

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Aug 24, 2007 5:22 am

John, In looking around for another word or phrase to answer your question, I ran across two discussions in the journal Western Folklore on such humorous comparisons. The phrase used to describe them in one was FOLK SIMILES or more loosely FOLK SAYINGS, in an article called ‘Texas Folk Similes’ by George D. Hendricks (‘Western Folklore,’ Vol. 19, No. 4, October, 1960), pages 245-262). The phrase used in the other was FOLK COMPARISONS and the article was titled ‘Folk Comparisons from Colorado’ by Cathy M. Orr (Vol. 35, No. 3, July, 1976, pages 175-298).

One might think that the word FOLK was used here because the comparisons discussed usually sound, folksy, with the implication of rural (often from the back hills and the farm) and unsophisticated (e.g. ‘handy as hip pockets on a hog,’ ‘busier than a one-armed paperhanger,’ etc.). But Orr explains that they are not always of this variety and that they can be based on such current items as TV ads, movies, cartoons, etc. So it seems to me that the word FOLK in FOLK COMPARISON and FOLK SIMILES, and the less specific FOLKS SAYINGS serves a somewhat similar role as does the ‘folk’ in ‘folk etymology’ one of the meanings of which is sometimes also referred to as ‘urban legend’ (a bogus after-the-fact story made up to explain the origin of a word or phrase). As in the case of ‘folk comparisons,’ ‘folk similes,’ and ‘folk sayings,’ this ‘folk’ does not necessarily mean folksy (as above) and the ‘urban’ does not necessarily refer to cities – these usages have just evolved over time and may now, on the face of it, not appear all that logical.

In any event, after reading through the two pieces, I found no special technical phrase (possibly Latin-sounding) used in the articles to describe these comparisons, and FOLK COMPARISONS and FOLK SIMILES seemed to be what they were called. Phil White’s use of HUMOROUS SIMILES seems appropriate also. But in my view the best name would be the one you have chosen for the title of this posting, HUMOROUS COMPARISONS, which would eliminate the possible false impression that the comparisons have to be ‘folksy’ in origin, and which would also open the door to expressions that are similar in spirit (see examples below) to ‘humorous/folk similes' but which technically may not actually be similes.

The following are some excerpts from the article 'Folk Comparisons from Colorado':

“It [[the folk comparison]] often has a ‘gutsy’ flavor that appeals to many people. . . . The elaborated and imaginative folk comparisons comprise a large proportion of those collected [
]. [[folk comparisons such as]] ‘So low you can dive off a toilet seat,’ ‘flatter than a plate of piss,’ . . . are used as a supplementary vocabulary. . . . .

The folk comparison appears in four formal structures: similes using the conjunction ‘as’; similes using the conjunction ‘like’; comparisons in the comparative degree using ‘than’; proverbial exaggerations using the words ‘so . . . that . . .,’ ‘too . . . to . . .,’ and ‘. . . enough to . . .’”

The author goes on to discuss the different categories and actually diagrams the sentences illustrating the various types. At this point I’ll just list some of the examples discussed and listed:

“1) Drunk as a skunk. 2) Eyes like a hawk. 3) Busier than a beehive. 4) So low he has to look up to see down.

Through phrase elaboration and phrase-combination, variant forms of each comparison are created. Phrase-elaboration enables a succinct version of a comparison such as ‘as hot as a fox; to be lengthened to ‘as hot as a fox in a forest fire’ and ‘as hot as a fresh-fucked fox.’ Phrase-combining allows two or more variants of a comparison to combine, forming a more complex exaggeration. One might combine ‘as hot as a fresh-fucked fox’ with ‘as hot as a fox in a forest fire” to get ‘as hot as a fresh-fucked fox in a forest fire’ [[one of my personal favorites]]. In each of these comparisons, rather than one word being replaced by another, the phrase structure allows additional words or phrases to be slipped into the framework as further embellishments on the dominant form.”

The discussion and analysis is followed by an appendix containing a massive list of examples in each of the four main categories a few of which I have listed below. I would note that although Orr only refers to the first too categories as being ‘similes’ (uses the words comparison words ‘like’ and ‘as’) and the last two as ‘comparisons, and ‘proverbial exaggerations,’ Hendricks in his Texas compilation, is not as picky, making no such distinction and just called all of them ‘folk similes.’

I) Adjectival Comparisons Using ‘As’

As cold as the north side of a witch’s tit.
As cute as a bug’s ear.
As dumb as a doorknob.
As funny as a cigarette machine in a cancer ward.
As horny as a two-peckered billy goat.
As lowdown as a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.
As nervous as a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.
As painful as a centipede with sore feet.
As slick as snot on a greased doorknob.
As stupid as a screendoor in a submarine.
As ugly as the south end of a north-bound mule.
As worthless as an egg-sucking hound.
As yellow as a Bic Banana.

II) Comparisons Using ‘Like’

Built like a brick shithouse.
Feel like shit warmed over.
Looks like he was shit at and hit.
Raining like a cow pissing on a hard rock.
Went over like pay toilets in the diarrhea ward.

III) Comparisons in the Comparative Degree Using ‘Than’

Gets more ass than a toilet seat.
Busier than a one-legged [[man]] at an ass-kicking contest.
Colder than a well-digger’s ass.
Colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra.
Crazier than a shithouse rat.
Funnier than a bubblegum machine in a lockjaw ward.
Lower than a mole’s asshole.
More painful than sliding down a fifty-foot razor blade and falling into a bucket of alcohol.
Better to be pissed off than pissed on.
Tighter than a bull’s ass in fly time.
Worse than a porcupine in a balloon factory.

IV) Proverbial Exaggerations

A) ‘So . . . that . . .’

I gotta pee so bad I can taste it.
Your breath is so bad it could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon.
He has his head so far up his ass he needs a periscope.
So horny even the crack of dawn had to be careful around me.
So low you have to carry an umbrella so the ants wont pee on you.
So stupid he thinks the English Channel is a T.V. station.

B) ‘Too . . . to . . .’

Too dumb to piss a hole in the snow.
Too dumb to tell horseshit from apple butter.

C) ‘. . Enough to . . .’

Cold enough to freeze the dildo off a doorman.
She’s enough to make your tongue hard.
Ugly enough to make a freight train take a dirt road.

The Texas article contains a very short discussion (with nowhere near the detail of the above) on the these types of expressions emphasizing the fact that of the 639 expressions listed many can be traced back to England and that they are not necessarily unique to Texas, which is, of course, also true of the above Colorado list. Hendricks specifically mentions overlaps with other compilations from Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, the Carolinas, as well as from Britain, but says that in his search of the literature he found that about 60% of his similes have not appeared in other studies, but said that this did not imply that these are all necessarily unique to Texas. As it turned out many of the phrases listed in this collection were also listed in the Colorado collection.

Some jewels from ‘Texas Similes’, which Hendricks lists alphabetically by topic include the following [note: for such ‘racy’ words such as ‘ass’ and ‘piss’—oh my God!—he used an em dash, which I have dispensed with]:

Fast as an alligator going through a handbag factory.
Hot as a piss-ant in a pepper patch in the middle of July.
Run like a striped-assed ape.
So buck-toothed he could eat an apple through a knothole.
So dumb that, if he had another brain, it would be lonesome.
If ignorance was music, he’d have a brass band of his own.
Hot as a June bride in a featherbed.
So awkward he couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle.
Nervous as a bubble dancer with a slow leak.
Slimy as a couple of eels in a bucket of snot.
Jumpy as an epileptic frog.
Cold as a witch’s leg in a brass nightgown.
So poor he couldn’t make the down payment on a free lunch.
A room so small you had to go outside to change your mind.
Nervous as a pregnant nun at high mass.
Slick as greased owl shit.
Busy as a one-armed paper hanger with hives.
So dry you had to prime your throat to spit.
So tight that, when he blinks his eyes, his toenails turn up.
So skinny that, when he drank tomato juice, he looked like a thermometer.
So slow he couldn’t herd turtles.

I’ll finish off with one more – I can’t recall where I heard it – and encourage others to add some of their favorites to the list. Some of my favorites seem to be the ones that contain alliteration (e.g. As hot as a fresh-fucked fox in a forest fire; Hot as a piss-ant in a pepper patch):

As useless as a condom machine in a convent. (&gt)

Ken – August 23, 2007

Humorous comparisons

Post by trolley » Fri Aug 24, 2007 8:13 am

Holy Smokes, Ken! Wait'll the old boy reads some of them !

Humorous comparisons

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Aug 24, 2007 8:28 am

As cold as a penguin's chuff
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Humorous comparisons

Post by Phil White » Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:04 pm

Common in the UK: "Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey".

The phrase has spawned "brass monkey weather", "brassy" and even "brassic" for cold weather.

I always thought the etymology I'd always heard for that one was folk etymology. Not so:

... the reference is to a type of brass rack or "monkey" in which cannon balls were stored and which contracted in cold weather, so ejecting the balls.

Brewer's dictionary of phrase and fable
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Humorous comparisons

Post by trolley » Fri Aug 24, 2007 5:04 pm

I thought that the cannon ball myth had been debunked. I read (somewhere,sometime) that the racks were actually made of iron. The brass monkey and his balls are excactly as they appear. If you have one out in your garden, remember to bring him inside for the winter.

Humorous comparisons

Post by Phil White » Fri Aug 24, 2007 5:41 pm

As I say, I always thought it was folk etymology, but Brewer is usually reliable. Off you go, Ken, there's a good chap.

Ed: A quick look on Snopes (, and I see that it has been debunked. Someone tell Brewer, please.
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Humorous comparisons

Post by Phil White » Fri Aug 24, 2007 5:56 pm

Oh dear, hoist by my own signature again. There have already been a few discussions of this on Wordwizard.
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Humorous comparisons

Post by Shelley » Fri Aug 24, 2007 7:15 pm

Two of my faves:

- as dumb as a bucket of rocks.
- enough to gag a maggot.

Humorous comparisons

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Aug 26, 2007 1:03 am

- didn't know him from a can of paint.
- dumb as a box of rocks.

Humorous comparisons

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Aug 26, 2007 6:30 am

These damn things are addictive! Here's a few ditties from Wallace O. Chariton, chronicler of entertaining Texas lingo (That Cat Won't Flush, 1991; This Dog'll Really Hunt, 1999). He characterizes his collection as 'colloquialisms' and 'unique sayings.'

Useless as:
1) an outhouse on a submarine.
2) a fork at a soup convention.
3) two buggies in a one-horse town.
4) gossip that's not worth repeating.
5) a two-story outhouse.
6) a side saddle on a sow.

He's as busy as
1) a dog in a fire hydrant factory.
2) a termite with a tapeworm.
3) a one-eyed cat watching three mice.

He's so henpecked:
1) he molts twice a year.
2) he still takes orders from his first wife.

He's so honest that he'd tell you in advance he was going to cheat you.

He's so lazy he married his first wife's sister so he wouldn't have to break in a new mother-in-law.

Ken G - August 25, 2007

Humorous comparisons

Post by Shelley » Sun Aug 26, 2007 1:23 pm

Congratulations on your 2000th post, gdwdwrkr (aka James)! Ding ding!
And I've hit my 1000th -- I'm happier 'n a tornado in a trailer park! (said by 'Mater', character in animated movie "Cars").

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