Metterfor, parterfor…whutsit all for?
Dinna waily yoor forhaed aboot it.
Moving toward the halfway mark in our studious study of Terry’s metaphors and similes in Equal Rites, in this article we’ll cover another dozen or so for your enjoyment (hopefully) and eddycation (mebbe).
Page 73 – The dockmaster sagged as though a coathanger had just been removed from his shirt.
You know the kind of thwump a shirt or blouse soundlessly makes when you take it off its hanger in preparation for wearing it. Now imagine this poor dockmaster’s body – his shoulders in particular – thwumping like that.
Granny can have that effect on people.
Page 74 – …for two pins, it always seemed to her [Granny], the wretched thing [a crystal ball] would suck your mind out like a whelk from a shell.
I don’t understand the meaning of the phrase “for two pins”, unless Terry is going for one of Granny’s mispronunciations here, as in “tuppence”.
A whelk is a sea snail. Getting one out of its shell doesn’t seem like a pleasant task.
Let’s move on.
Page 74 – The viewpoint was very high up and a wide swathe of country lay below her, blue with distance, through which a broad river wriggled like a drunken snake.
Snakes at their soberest sometimes move rather wriggley. I doubt that a snake has ever been truly drunk, but if one had…well, just stay out of its way.
Page 74 – [Next sentence] There were silver lights floating in the foreground but they were, in a manner of speaking, just a few flakes in the great storm of lights that turned in a great lazy spiral, like a geriatric tornado with a bad attack of snow, and funnelled down, down to the hazy landscape.
Ah, the traditional geriatric tornado.
I admire how Terry can sometimes put two opposites together and make them sound as if they’ve always been bosom buddies. I wonder how long he had to think to come up with a pair like this.
Page 77 – She hesitated; her unfinished sentence hung like a little curl of crystal in the air while discretion made a successful bid for control of her tongue.
This one is so abstract that it’s actually a little hard for me to imagine – harder than usual, that is.
The thing is…I wouldn’t be surprised if both Esk (the speaker) and Amschat Zoon could both see the curl.
Page 79 – He [Amschat] tried hinting that she should obey the unwritten rules of Zoon life and stay afloat, but a hint was to Esk what a mosquito bite was to the average rhino because she was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.
The mosquito bite part of this one is easy. It’s the rest of the quote that’s really interesting.
Page 82 – A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a halfbrick in the path of the bicycle of history.
The halfbrick returns.
This time, instead of being thrown at a plate glass window, it simply and quite innocently lies there in the path of your bike, waiting to change the course of history.
This could quite literally happen.
Page 82 – But then the wavefront of probability struck the edge of Reality and rebounded like the slosh off the side of the pond which, meeting the laggard ripples coming the other way, caused small but important whirlpools in the very fabric of existence.
Things like this happen when you get into wizard magic. Similes are inevitable when describing them.
Page 90-91 – Gander wasn’t particularly sorry about that…but he was nervous of being in the same area as Something that went through a dozen wiry and wickedly armed gnolls like a spoon through a lightly-boiled egg but left no tracks.
I don’t like boiled eggs – lightly or hardly boiled.
Be that as it may, if Something (with a capital “S”) can move like that metaphorical spoon and if even the head wizard would stay out of its way, well…say no more. Just leave quickly.
Page 93 – He [Treatle] was stupid, yes, in the particular way that very clever people can be stupid, and maybe he had all the tact of an avalanche and was as self-centered as a tornado, but it would never have occurred to him that children were important enough to be unkind to.
“Tact of an avalanche” qualifies as a metaphor, I guess, but it doesn’t need any further comment.
I love “self-centered as a tornado” though.
It gives the tornado a personality. Giving non-living objects – if you can call a tornado a single object – is a clever way to allow yourself to attribute attributes to them that they don’t normally have.
Page 98 – The old witch [Granny] leaned forward and put her hand on Esk’s forehead; it was like being caressed by a sock full of warm dice.
I’ve had a handful of warm dice many times when playing board games. I can’t say I’ve ever put them in a sock and pressed them to my forehead. Nor have I let (or asked) anyone else to do the deed for me.
And yet…I still know what this feels like. Don’t you?
Well begun is half done. So says Aristotle and Mary Poppins.
Seriously. Look it up.
I hope I’ve begun this series well because I’m not half done.