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A quote by Dr. Johnson goes

"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."

The phrase "make a beast of himself" appears to have the definition of "to behave like a beast", in the same way as how "make a ... of himself" would function in the idiom "make a fool of himself".

Here is my question: is it appropriate to use the expression "make a ... of himself" be used in all cases to mean "to behave like a ..."? (e.g. He makes a coward of himself.)

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I don't suppose "making a statue of himself" would involve behaving like a statue. – njd Apr 18 '13 at 11:33
Yes, the phrase "makes a ___ of himself" is another way to say "he behaves like a ____" - just be aware that there are some usages are more idiomatic than others, for example: "...makes an ass of himself", "...makes a pest of himself", "...makes a nuisance of himself", and your example, "...makes a fool of himself" – Kristina Lopez Apr 19 '13 at 17:36
@njd it could. I've seen plenty of street performers do it. – Matt E. Эллен Apr 21 '13 at 12:47

Not necessarily - I can think of the phrase 'make a laughingstock of oneself' which does not precisely mean to behave like a laughingstock (because there is no such creature with specified behaviors), but rather to turn oneself into the object of ridicule.

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