When I was in fourth grade, I once had to complete a worksheet on similes or metaphors, or some such crap. (See? I can too make a post about writing!) The worksheet consisted of exercises like this:
In Slumberland, dreams are as colorful as ___________ .
All I had to do was fill in the blank. “A butterfly” seemed like a good answer in the exercise above.
But when I got to this one:
On Jupiter, a drop of water is as big as ______________ .
I didn’t know anything about Slumberland, but Jupiter? You bet!
I reasoned that the standard size of a water drop could be defined as the nominal size of a drop as it falls from an eyedropper. I chose this as my definition of a drop (rather than, say, the nominal size of a droplet formed by condensation) because the size of a water drop falling from an eyedropper depends solely on gravity and surface tension. Stronger gravity overcomes surface tension more easily, so water drops on Jupiter should be smaller than those on Earth. Considerably smaller, I reasoned. So this was my answer:
On Jupiter, a drop of water is as big as the head of a pin.
I had no empirical data or the slightest idea how something like that would be calculated, but I was quite proud that my answer was an educated guess, formed on the basis of science and on the knowledge of how such things worked.
“No,” my teacher said. “You’re not getting it”. She said the word “big” should have been a clue to pick something, you know, big. Like a house. or a circus tent.
“Or a small moon?” I said.
“No, that’s too big,” she said. A more baffling response from a teacher I have never received. (And, oh, how I wish I had known about “that’s what she said” jokes at the time.)
She explained the purpose of a simile (or whatever) and said that the way it’s written, a water drop on Jupiter can’t be smaller. It has to be bigger.
“But that’s just so WRONG!” I said.
I got a very bad grade on that worksheet.
But the important thing is that I stuck to my guns and embraced science and reality despite being told not to do so by an authority figure. And all the other times I embraced science and reality and got beaten up for it.
Science and Reality FOR THE WIN! (Even though I got an F.)
And my teacher thought I just didn’t get it.
Wait, wasn’t this article supposed to be about similes or whatever? I never got those, really.