Some analogies tend to be very common, becoming almost idiomatic. For example:

He entered the doctor's office at 4:59 PM on a Friday. The secretary's stare was icy cold.

Is reversing those kind of analogies still considered the same stylistic device, or does it have a different name? For example:

Snow was still falling when she got out. The icy cold air welcomed her, the way a secretary welcomes you on a Friday at 4:59PM.

Both seem to be analogies/similes, but at the same time they both seem to be different.

Are both these things the same stylistic device, or is there a way to differentiate them?

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    You're mixing up terms. The first one isn't an analogy or simile; I wouldn't even call it a metaphor. It's just poetically descriptive. The second one is a simile (not an analogy), but poorly written. It should be more like "She welcomed the icy air like a secretary welcomes a visitor at 4:59 p.m. on a Friday." (meaning that she didn't welcome it) Apr 12, 2014 at 17:58
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    "Analogy" comes from "analogue": something similar but not identical which serves the same purpose. "If your circulatory system were a bus route, then a blood cell is the bus driving from one stop to the next" is an analogy. "The blood clot careened through the artery like a crosstown bus driven by a 16-year-old on Red Bull" is a simile. "White blood cells are the body's army" is a metaphor. Apr 12, 2014 at 18:02
  • @LaurenIpsum I thought similes/metaphors were a kind of analogy. As for the second sentence, the idea was that the outside welcomed her in a cold way, not that she didn't welcome the cold. Maybe being "welcomed by cold air" doesn't make sense in English. Apr 12, 2014 at 18:40
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    @justhalf: Analogy: comparing relations: A is related to B is like C is related to D. Simile: comparing items: A is like B. Metaphor: A [used instead of B, which is similar to A] (actually Lauren might have confused you a bit here because she wrote it in form of a simile, but if I wrote "AIDS attacks your body's army", then "your body's army" is the metaphor meaning white blood cells).
    – SF.
    May 15, 2014 at 5:38
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    @justhalf: 1. Lauren is a female name, 2. look at our rep. We've spent a lot of time here on Writers.se, so we got to know each other a little.
    – SF.
    May 15, 2014 at 8:18

2 Answers 2


Are we simply suggesting that any secretary will be irritated by late comers? If you are simply using the secretary as an analogy I am not sure it makes a lot of sense unless the secretary is relevant to the story...and "Like a secretary at closing time on Friday" is not really idiomatic...people can figure out the reference sure but not the same as icy stare.

I would avoid the analogy if it inst story relevant, but if it is I would probably go with adding something to ensure the specific person that is known to be frosty is the subject at hand. If you make it known that the secretary is frosty first then the second example can work well enough...and I like that it describes the environment utilizing a reference to a character's personality...that's interesting:

Snow was still falling when she got out. The icy cold air welcomed her, the way a certain secretary welcomes you on a Friday at 4:59PM.

That said it does not carry the same idiomatic value as in the first example. In the second description it is an adjective describing the weather, in the first the secretary. The "icy cold" idiom is only an idiom if you aren't talking about actual icy cold.


Generally, both analogies and similes are symmetrical:

  • If A is like B, then B is like A (similes).
  • If the relation between A and B is like relation between C and D then relation between C and D is like relation between A and B. (analogies)

It would be hard to think up the exotic examples when that might not be true. So, technically, a reverse analogy is just an analogy, and a reverse simile is still a simile.

Now, if you create a simile of something relatively simple (cold air) to something overly long and descriptive (a doctor's secretary sending you a glare at 4:59PM on friday) this is called Epic simile or Homeric simile after these being common in the Illiad and the Odyssey.

In modern prose and poetry they are rarely welcome, because it usually results in purple prose, with parodistic tones at best, plain pathetic at worst, and you need absolute mastery to use them in a way that won't make the reader wince. (Your air-secretary simile certainly qualifies as wince-inducing.)

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