Metaphor, Simile, and the Exaggeration of Likeness

John Barnden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This article reveals an overlooked way of interpreting sentences like “The Internet is crack [cocaine]” or “Libraries are supermarkets.” Many existing theories of metaphor could apply here. However, they can instead be interpreted in a likeness-exaggerating way, under which “Libraries are supermarkets” is simply an exaggerated way of saying that libraries are like supermarkets to a very high degree. This interpretation option follows from simple, general considerations about exaggeration and likeness scales. In this way it is preferable to the abbreviated-simile view of metaphor, and in any case it can be added to any existing metaphor account. It has broad significance for the theory of metaphor and simile, but also provides a new, straightforward explanation of the special, likeness-strengthening effect in utterances such as “Libraries aren’t merely like supermarkets, they are supermarkets.” This effect exists despite evidence that X-is-Y metaphors do not generally convey more likeness than corresponding similes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-62
Number of pages22
JournalMetaphor and Symbol
Issue number1
Early online date20 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Communication


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