How to be good at coming up with analogies?
March 21, 2013 6:38 AM   Subscribe

I want to be able to come up with better analogies to describe life and work situations. I'm thinking of the kind that the folks in The Bugle would come up with.
posted by Lucubrator to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you give an example of the type of situation you're wanting an analogy for? This question is really hard to answer without a little more info.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:24 AM on March 21, 2013

Have lots and lots of different experiences and try to learn from each one.
posted by 3FLryan at 7:25 AM on March 21, 2013

Read a lot, learn a bit about a lot of different things, learn about a lot of different people and cultures.
posted by mareli at 8:40 AM on March 21, 2013

I haven't listened to The Bugle, but it looks like it's done by pros who are probably way more practiced or prepared than they may seem. Since it's satirical, I'd guess the trick is to start with something random and work your way back to your real target until you have something biting on both topics. For example, I just saw a Hoover ad, so "Life is like a new vacuum cleaner: no one really asks for one, and however well it works, it's as if the real point of it is to gradually damage your spine."

Also, don't go for the obvious.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:42 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try and break down the thing you're trying to analogize into it's base component. I just read a great post comparing a rental car with UI design and comparing a complaint about the car to a tech bug report.

What this article does so well is it clearly isn't looking at the "what" of either thing (the car or the UI) it's looking at the "how". So if you're looking for an analogy for a dysfunctional relationship a typical place to start would be "other relationships", but that's not going to make a strong analogy, really thats more of a direct comparison.

Instead look at HOW it's broken, and be detailed. If the relationship is suffering from poor communication you might say "attempting to reason with him is like trying to keep up with a ambulance on Rt 66 at 6PM" or you might say "talking to him is like organizing my linen closet" Both of those address communication, but they're clearly targeting two very different root issues...
posted by dadici at 9:40 AM on March 21, 2013

An example of something I loved recently was andy zaltzman describing the digestive process of eating dehydrated space food as being "like Stalin through a poetry club". In real life, I once heard a boss describe how the tasks assigned by upper management were like "shuffling shit from the living room to the garage when the guests come over".
posted by Lucubrator at 9:57 PM on March 21, 2013

I'm told that I'm good at analogies and that my friends are good at methodical thinking. They do well at things like: defining words and ideas, thinking up the right word for a definition.

I'm not sure *how* I do analogies, but I imagine it's something like this: Use your random access. Start pulling up tangentially/potentially -related words and ideas until you find one that might work. Then try to tie it in.

Then again, maybe it's not that. When I said "Use your random access," what came to mind was the random access feature that computers have. That was a sort of minor analogy. But I didn't used the prescribed algorithm I just gave you. It was just the first way I thought of for me to describe the idea of pulling up words and ideas at random. It is, however, the sort of approach I would use to get that "Stalin in a poetry club" analogy.

For that later example you gave, if I were trying to describe tasks assigned by upper management, I might start with the feeling it gave me. And then I would try to think of another time that made me feel that way. This might be a more satisfactory approach.
posted by aniola at 12:25 PM on April 21, 2013

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