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Why would someone who is fit be compared to a fiddle? Is it the slim waistline that the violin possesses? Is it the rowing machine that the fiddle uses?

Of course not. Originally, "fit" meant fitting or suitable. Apparently, in some situations, a fiddle is the only correct -- or fitting -- instrument to use. Not a zither, not a tuba, not a xylophone.

But, somewhere along the line, the phrase "fit as a fiddle" came to mean "in good shape."

Of course it's more efficient to brag that you are simply fit. But the folksier way is to use a simile.

Fit as a fiddle is a simile because it compares things, using the word "as." Other similes use the word "like," or other words, in their comparisons.

Many similes follow this pattern: "as (adjective or descriptive word) as (noun or thing)." Consider these:

as white as snow

as busy as a bee

as stubborn as a mule

as proud as a peacock

as red as a beet

as clear as day

Those examples make sense, because associating the trait mentioned with that item isn't a leap.

She must be embarrassed, because her face is as red as a beet.

The day his daughter was born, he was proud as a peacock.

Once the Legos container was open, the toddler was as busy as a bee and quiet as a mouse.

Similes are commonly formed using alliteration -- the repetition of the first sound in words strung together. Some of those are questionable:

as blind as a bat (bats can see)

as dead as a door nail (the lifespan of a door nail is zero)

as pretty as a picture (what if it's a picture of tooth decay?)

as thick as thieves (I can't judge this one.)

Still other similes are simply odd and leave you wondering who came up with them:

as long as my arm (wouldn't a leg be longer?)

as fine as frog hair

as happy as a pig eating pancakes

as scarce as snake hips

tall like a giraffe (are giraffes tall to other giraffes?)

Robert Burns wrote, "My love is like a red, red rose." (Sounds thorny.)

And then we have the intentionally bad similes. The Washington Post received some doozies when it ran a contest in 1999 called "The Worst Analogies Ever Written in a High School Essay.''

McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy! comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30.

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.

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

You have to admire imaginative people.


'Tis the season for holiday cliches. Do not succumb.

It's difficult to make it through December without hearing a news story beginning like this:

Christmas came early for Johnny Walker. He had been saving for a new bicycle but instead won a lottery jackpot that will allow him to buy a fleet of bicycles.

Or maybe:

Council members said "Bah humbug" to the request for holiday lights on the Town Hall tree.

And it's nearly impossible to get through an hour of TV watching without hearing a commercial voice-over begin with, "It's the holidays ...."

We know it's the holidays. Do we need constant reminders?

And to all a good night.

Sources:, American Heritage Dictionary,,,

Reach Bernadette at

ActiveStyle on 12/11/2017

Print Headline: Be folksy and talk in similes


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