Information Security Awareness, Training and Motivation — Native Intelligence, Inc.


Analogies, metaphors, and similes help learners to associate new concepts with their previous knowledge or experience.  These figures of speech create pictures that connect the teacher and learner to the same idea.  Gerry Spence, in How To Argue and Win Every Time, wrote, "Words that do not create images should be discarded."  And he follows his advice. For example, Spence writes, "To get a prejudiced judge off a case is like prying a tooth out of a rabid gorilla." This allows his readers to visualize the concept. Can't you see the gorilla frothing?

Analogies can be used to make complex topics simpler to understand. Susan Boyd, author of Accelerate Computer Learning With Analogies, explains that "turning off the computer in the middle of an application is like kicking the ladder away while the painter is on the third floor."  She uses analogies to get her audience's attention and to make seemingly dry or dull subjects more interesting.

This one is from Alan Cooper's The Inmates Are Running the Asylum - he compares programming before the design work is completed to a parachute maker telling the jumper, "By the time you are ready to hit the ground, I’ll have stitched together a parachute." He continues, explaining that there is "abundant waste with this method - like a carpenter cutting boards by eye until he gets one that fills the gap in the wall."

Here's another from Alan Cooper - "It’s a common mistake to copy the trappings of success, rather than the root cause of it. It’s like seeing General George Patton’s pearl-handled revolvers, and drawing the erroneous conclusion that to be a good strategist one must wear ornate side arms. 

An analogy is used in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" when Scout explains to her father why he shouldn't report Boo Radley — "It's like killing a mockingbird, isn't it?"

Socrates said that learning is like giving birth, and teaching is like being a midwife.

Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that "science is nothing but the finding of an analogy."

If you wanted to explain how a small decision can have far-reaching consequence, you could suggest picturing a large and heavy gate - it moves very little at the hinges but a long way out at the circumference. A very small movement at the hinge brings a long movement at the end of the gate.

More Analogies

Weekends are a bit like rainbows; they look good from a distance but disappear when you get up close to them. — John Shirley

A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs; jolted by every pebble in the road. — Henry Ward Beecher

Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders. — Ronald Wilson Reagan

Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There's nothing to do but stand there and take it. — Lyndon Baines Johnson

Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy. — Joseph Campbell

Trying to determine the structure of a protein by UV spectroscopy was like trying to determine the structure of a piano by listening to the sound it made while being dropped down a flight of stairs. — Francis Crick

Getting angry can sometimes be like leaping into a wonderfully responsive sports car, gunning the motor, taking off at high speed and then discovering the brakes are out of order. — Maggie Scarf

Presentations are as much about slides as poetry is about handwriting. — unknown

Telling a stress junkie to stay calm is like trying to put out a fire with gunpowder. — unknown

Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon, or to the first comer. — George Santayana

Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does. — Stuart H. Britt

A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us. — Franz Kafka

Documentation is the castor oil of programming. The managers know it must be good, because programmers hate it so much. — Gerald M. Weinberg

History is a vast early warning system. — Norman Cousins

They who derive their worth from their ancestors resemble potatoes, the most valuable part of which is underground. — Francis Bacon

A small trouble is like a pebble. Hold it too close to your eye and it fills the whole world and puts everything out of focus. Hold it at a proper distance and it can be examined and properly classified. Throw it at your feet and it can be seen in its true setting, just one more tiny bump on the pathway of life. — Celia Luce

Express an opinion, but send advice freight. — unknown

Rock drummers are like car tires: they’re regularly replaced, but you won’t get far if you’re missing one. — unknown

Close quarters air combat is like a knife fight in a phone booth - quick, brutal, and no room for error. — WWII pilot

Use sunscreen. Sun-damaged skin is like the elastic band in underpants when you’ve worn them too long. — unknown

The mind of the bigot is like the pupil of the eye, the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract. — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Wit ought to be a glorious treat, like caviar; never spread it around like marmalade. — Noel Coward

Share your favorite analogies!

You can make my day by sending an analogy to Kaie at NativeIntelligence dot com. Please put "Analogy" in the subject line.