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In the News: Yeezus, Simile, and Metaphor

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If you’ve tuned in to the recent media blitz surrounding Kanye West and his new genre-bending, chart-topping album Yeezus, you may have picked up on a theme: this man likes to pronounce his greatness. He does it in a myriad of ways. In his recent compulsively quotable interview in New York Times, he did it by likening himself to Steve Jobs: “I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture.” On his album, he takes it a step further with a ditty titled “I Am a God.”

Of course, Kanye West is neither Steve Jobs nor a god—not literally at least. In both of these examples, he is using a type of figurative speech that poets and lyricists have relied on since the dawn of language. It’s also one of the two most commonly confused literary devices in the English language. So is Kanye speaking in metaphor, or simile? Let’s review the difference between the two.

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance. For example, to borrow from another currently chart-topping musician, Justin Timberlake, the song title “Mirrors“ is a metaphor. Why? Because he’s using the word “mirror” to refer to a relationship—not to actual mirrors. The line in the song, “You’re my reflection,” is also a metaphor because the “you’re” to whom he’s referring is his lover, not his literal reflection.

However, if the above line were amended to “you’re like my reflection,” we would have a simile on our hands. A simile is a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared—typically with the word “as” or “like.” So, for instance, in the same song, the line “your shine is somethin’ like a mirror” is a simile. Another lyrical example of simile that you might be familiar with comes courtesy of the Beatles: “It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog”—along with “sleeping like a log.”

So when Kanye says “I Am a God,” or “I am … Steve of Internet,” barring the outside chance that he believes these statements to be literal truths, he is speaking in metaphor. Like countless artists before him, he is employing figurative language to add dimension and resonance to his ideas—or to put it metaphorically, to give his ideas wings.

Do you have a favorite metaphor or simile from the radio? We want to hear about it. Share with us below.

89 Comments

  1. michael -  November 16, 2013 - 8:58 am

    When the word was used as any other word is used and the person to whom it is being used to understands it then it is correct . Does that make sense to anyone ? Thanksgiving

    Reply
  2. YouKnowMe -  July 16, 2013 - 4:19 pm

    P.S.
    I am HIGHLY amused by these comments; the audacity. “Yeezus” has clearly exercised his power on most of you given the fact you are annoyed and, if you will, jealous by a man who you claim to be foolish; that which we hate [on] we truly admire. His lyrics are cyphered and unless you are fully conscious of the subject matter you will remain to respond like fools. This has been more entertaining than “Yeezus” which I’m sure was his intentions #lmao

    Reply
  3. YouKnowMe -  July 16, 2013 - 4:08 pm

    #FYI Kanye is not being metaphoric. He has the esoteric belief that man is God in his right mind. That man is in the “image and likeness” therefore carries the qualities and power of The Most High. Figured you should be politically correct so not to dilute his poetic msg.

    Reply
  4. Pamela -  July 16, 2013 - 8:26 am

    I think the proper description would be blasphemer! He’s a demonic Racist with serious insecurities.

    Reply
  5. Corbusier -  July 15, 2013 - 11:06 pm

    This part of the site is called “In The News” so I’m assuming posts relate to current events. I see nothing wrong with using pop culture to teach.

    Reply
  6. Nasier -  July 15, 2013 - 2:32 pm

    @Larry so many of your favorite artist wouldn’t be famous if it wasn’t for Kanye

    Reply
  7. Alun Clewe -  July 15, 2013 - 1:08 pm

    Er… those criticizing the use of “myriad” may want to check out a dictionary themselves. “Myriad” may be correctly used as either a noun or an adjective; “a myriad of ways” is perfectly correct (although just “myriad ways” would also have been correct). In fact, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the noun usage actually came first, going back at least as far as 1609 (when Alexander Craig wrote about “a miriad [sic] of mis-fortunes”). The use of myriad as an adjective, on the other hand, apparently didn’t arise till 1735.

    Reply
  8. Kim -  July 15, 2013 - 10:43 am

    the radio waves that exist outside of the radio, and the “brain” would be the radio itself. Let’s call it the “mind radio” model, with “mind waves” being interpreted by the “mind radio” (i.e. brain

    Reply
  9. Lauren S. -  July 15, 2013 - 9:10 am

    You know, everyone is being so mean to the author, when what you should really be doing is thinking, Wow! Maybe I’ll need that for the future.
    This person didn’t have to use Kanye West in their article. They could’ve just said the difference between a metaphor and a simile. But most of you are just going,
    OOPS! He made a booboo! Better not pay attention at all to what their saying!

    By the way, author dude, I liked it!

    Reply
  10. Sean -  July 15, 2013 - 5:52 am

    Don’t make arrogant comments ‘Gregg Rossetti’ & ‘Hummingbird’… the word ‘myriad’ is used as a noun in this context, not an adjective. It’s funny that you’re both being so quick to judge when you yourselves are clearly wrong..

    Reply
  11. Daniel Russaw -  July 15, 2013 - 1:34 am

    Kanye is telling the truth…he is a god. As a matter of fact…we all are gods.It says so in the Bible. “You all are gods, but you will die like mere men.”

    Reply
  12. Rotten Johnny -  July 15, 2013 - 1:27 am

    In response to a fellow poster and scholar:

    I would offer that garbage is actually a synonym for Kanye, wouldn’t you agree?

    To Hummingbird and all other illiterate morons:

    You’re all absolute morons. The only thing worse than a literacy snob is a literacy idiot trying to be a literacy snob. In this day and age, you don’t need to be a literacy snob to do a quick check on proper grammar. Your local Merriam-Webster or Oxford is available to reference at your fingertips. The usage of the word “myriad” is listed not only as an adjective in this online dictionary, but also as a noun. Furthermore, there are articles that you can find online, in less time than it takes to post moronic messages to the author of this article, that will explain to you that “a myriad of” has been a phrase used by authors with more credibility than either you or I have, and can be found in such works as Thoreau. The usage of the word “myriad” as a noun is in fact the older form of usage and dates back to the 16th century. This usage is widely accepted by more important people to the literary world than you and your pathetic credentials are. I guess I could say, “You are very ass” rather than, “You are an ass”–since you like to pull examples from your ass.

    So much in language changes and evolves through time. Imagine all that Shakespeare could criticize about our English today. Should we all walk around speaking like Shakespeare now? Jeez, everyone who posts on dictionary.com is a goddamn expert.

    Read more about the usage of Myriad here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/myriad

    Go duke it out with Thoreau now, internet grammar warriors!

    Reply
  13. james b..atl -  July 14, 2013 - 11:14 pm

    Oh, joys arise

    The sun has come again to hold you

    Sailing out the doldrums of the week

    The polyphonic prairies here, it’s all around you

    It’s all around you, out here

    Read more: GORILLAZ – EMPIRE ANTS LYRICS
    believe its a metaphor ..because doldrums have two meanining..but the both meaning are used at the same time in this part of the verse

    Reply
  14. james b..atl -  July 14, 2013 - 11:14 pm

    Oh, joys arise

    The sun has come again to hold you

    Sailing out the doldrums of the [Incomprehensible]

    The polyphonic prairies here, it’s all around you

    It’s all around you, out here

    Read more: GORILLAZ – EMPIRE ANTS LYRICS
    believe its a metaphor ..because doldrums have two meanining..but the both meaning are used at the same time in this part of the verse

    Reply
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