When public speaking a great way to add sparkle and interest is through the use of similes.
Similes may be found in literature, speeches, poetry, in magazines, the news, on radio or TV, in plays, stories, or in almost any source of communication wherein writers or speakers try to be interesting.
Following are a few similes which were created by well-known authors:
Free as mountain winds. — Shakespeare.
Her face was white and colorless as an icicle. — Channing Pollack.
Hairless as an egg. — Robert Herrick.
He felt like the symptom on a medicine bottle. — George Ade.
Hysterical as a tree full of chickens. — Irvin S. Cobb.
Poor and forgotten like a cloud upon the field. — Hugo.
He looked like a composite picture of five thousand orphans
too late to catch a picnic steamboat. — O. Henry.
God pardons like a mother who kisses away the repentant tears
of her child. — Henry Ward Beecher.
He is a steam roller in a pair of pants. — Sherwin L. Cook.
The human mind should be like a good hotel, open the year around. — William Lyon Phelps.
He had a hand like a bunch of bananas. — R. F. Outcault.
A person who intends to speak frequently should- jot down for future reference any impressive simile he reads, or hears. It may just fit some idea he wishes to express in a speech.
Similes to avoid are those that do not create an interesting mental picture, and probably those that grandfather smiled at when he was in the third grade — similes such as the following which were actually turned in by college students. Those students, having misinterpreted the meaning of effective similes, of¬fered these trite comparisons as being useful speech material:
He was as sober as a judge.
It was as weak as water.
The meat was as tough as leather.
He turned as white as a sheet.
The girl was as ugly as sin.
His joke went over like a ton of bricks.
He was slow as a snail.
The night was as silent as a grave.
The family was as poor as a church mouse.
She sang like a lark.
It was as welcome as the flowers in May.
Cold as ice.
Slick as a button.
Red as a rose.
Black as the ace of spades.
He behaved like a bull in a china shop.
The moon was shining bright as day.
As clean as a towel that has just been washed.
As nervous as a June bride.
Hearing a simile like those listed above is somewhat like looking at an ordinary pebble on a beach. It gets, no attention and does nothing to help make a speech interesting.
A helpful mental exercise for a student o£ public speaking is creating original similes for old, worn-out ones. For instance, one student substituted, “Slick as an eel in a barrel of motor oil” for “slick as a button.”
Another student came up with “Happy as a baby with his hands in cool mush,” for “happy as a lark.” Still another said, “Black as a wet skunk,” instead of “Black as the ace of spades.”
My next post on using similes in public speaking starts with a mistake to avoid that Mark Twain made.