Bad Analogies Are Like Bananas in a Swordfight

September 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm 3 comments

The word analogy derives from the Greek word analogia, which means “proportion.” An analogy is a comparison of two things, and a good analogy is like an elegant proof — it may require numerous false starts, but the end result is usually worth the effort.

Here are two of my favorite analogies:

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after Dr on a Dr Pepper can.

The wonderful analogies above originally appeared in the Style Invitational, a weekly wordplay contest in the Style section of the Washington Post, through which its creators “seek to bring a variety of clever, timely, irreverent humor” to readers every week. Incidentally, the analogies above were responses to the Style Invitational on Pi Day 1999. They are not — as often purported on numerous plagiaristic websites and in various irreputable publications — pulled from high school essays. They are works of comic genius, not examples of poor writing by ill-informed teen-agers. The freight train analogy was penned by Jennifer Hart of Arlington, Virginia, and Wayne Goode of Madison, Alabama, deserves credit for the unadulterated brilliance of the Dr Pepper analogy.

Of course, analogies are not for everybody. For instance, the Alabama geometry teacher who used an analogy of shooting President Obama when teaching parallel lines and angles should probably consider a different example. While such a story may make you smile, it’s not really funny.

But analogies can be humorous, such as the following joke from Calamities of Nature:

Yo mama is such a slut that the set of guys she’s slept with has cardinality aleph-naught!

At least it’s not aleph-one!

In the comments section for that cartoon, one astute observer noted:

Well, it couldn’t be aleph-one unless she could manage at least aleph-naught at a time (amazing) or the encounters were amazingly brief.

I greatly appreciate when the comment on a web comic is funnier than the cartoon itself!

Finally, here’s my all-time favorite analogy, which compares two things not typically seen as similar:

GPA vs Tires

Writing this post was like driving across the George Washington Bridge during rush hour — it took a lot longer than I had hoped, but at least I didn’t get wet.

Like I said, analogies aren’t for everyone.

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Moebius Noodles Project 4 Jokes, Just For Fun

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Pat Myers  |  September 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for so conscientiously crediting both The Style Invitational and its contributors — you’re a rare breed indeed.

    Pat Myers, The Empress of The Style Invitational

    • 2. venneblock  |  September 19, 2011 at 9:35 am

      This morning, a neighbor’s five-year-old daughter saw me in a business suit and said, “You look very handsome.” Her father said, “That’s probably the best compliment you’ll get all day!” And then none other than Pat Myers herself refers to me as “a rare breed indeed.” Wow! This is a red-letter day for me!

      But wait… there’s more! I just noticed that the MJ4MF blog just exceeded 10,000 visitors from the US on the Flag Counter! All I need now is for someone to make me bread pudding for dessert, and this will clearly be the best day in the history of existence.

  • 3. Pat Myers  |  September 19, 2011 at 9:36 am

    You also look very handsome.


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About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

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