November 19, 2012

Terrible Analogies

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What is the issue?

As a young person, you may have taken a standardized test which forced you to fill in the blanks with analogies. Questions like this: Spider is to web as weaver is to _______. Or: _______ is to heartache as forest is to bench.

This seems like a thing which only happens when we are applying to get into an elite college, a thing which we then promptly forget about, but actually it happens throughout our lives.

Last night, you screamed at your girlfriend that she was a whore. “You’re a whore!” you screamed, and afterwards it seemed like the utensils in the dish rack were still vibrating from the intensity of your scream. But this is not quite right and is, in fact, a bad analogy. After all, she was only looking at that guy in the bar. What you have done here is create a bad analogy, a bad SAT test, and you should create a better one: Whore is to virgin as girlfriend is to _______.

Once, I said this to a friend, while in the throes of some dramatic love affair. “Love is like falconry,” I said. “Don’t you think so?” I thought this was terrific and was very profound and I was prepared to expound upon it at great length: the bird wheeling in the sky in circles as I waited below, etc. But my friend said this to me: “Don’t compare anything to anything else, because it isn’t that thing.” God, my friend lacked drama and style and flair, and months later, I stopped being friends with him.

Now, it seems that he is right. Your girlfriend isn’t a whore and neither is mine, but neither is she a beautiful grey-plumed falcon wheeling in the sky. We will have to get used to these facts. But stopping doing analogies altogether is an impossible thing to do. “This coffee tastes like shit,” you hiss, sitting in the corner of the cafe. It does not. Drink it down, pay your tip, and leave. Things are not other things, and perhaps the fairest analogy of all that we can make is this: Life is to blank as blank is to blank. Or perhaps this too, like this story and like most other things, is just one more bad analogy out of so many. TC mark

image – U.S. National Archives

secondary image – U.S. National Archives

Oliver Miller

Oliver is a vague personage, of no fixed residence — sort of a wandering poet-warrior who makes his own rules, if …

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