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I've observed a figure of speech used heavily by rappers which uses the basic construction of a simile—a "this like that" comparison—when the similarity in the comparison is purely linguistic. That is, rather than comparing two actually similar entities, a purely equivocal connection is drawn between two entities.

An example that comes quickly to mind a phrase from Canon's song "Let 'Em Have It" on his new EP, Loose Canon:

Trust me, quote me like I'm State Farm

State Farm gives insurance quotes—which is an entirely different kind of quote than intended by "quote me".

Normally, this might be considered to be a defective simile. However, I have heard it entirely too many times by too many different talented lyricists to believe that—I think it is a valid figure of speech within this art form. By the deliberate use of "like" in a dissimilar construction, Canon lends a playful feel to his lyrics and makes them more memorable.

For lack of a better name, I would be tempted to call it an equivocal simile. But is there an established name for this figure of speech? Is it known to exist outside of hip-hop in English usage?

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English usage — Hamlet: “Pray God your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, be not crack'd within the ring” is triply equivocal: 1) the boy player's voice on the verge of “cracking”, threatening its “ring” and 2) a woman (such as the characters the boy plays) who has lost her virginity and is said to have had her “ring” “cracked” are both compared to 3) a coin from which gold or silver has been “cracked” inside the “ring” surrounding the monarch's portrait. The debased coin, the unchaste woman, and the unoviced boy-actor are all “uncurrent” — deprived of function. –  StoneyB Dec 1 '12 at 23:27
    
@StoneyB Yes! an example from Shakespeare! Thank you. –  Kazark Dec 1 '12 at 23:39
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It's equivocal because it's incorrect grammar. It's not a simile at all. "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" was deliberately incorrect. Shooda been "as a cigarette should", but that wooda garnered no attention. "Quote me like I'm State Farm" commits the same solecism: shoodbe "like State Farm quotes rates" or sumthin like dat. But even though that's a real simile, it's not a good lyric, not even for hip-hop. There are two words for your "equivocal simile": "solecism" & "songlyric". Maybe "pseudosimile", "faux-simile", or "ersatz-simile" too. But we grok it NTL. –  user21497 Dec 2 '12 at 10:07

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'm fairly certain that's just called a pun*. Because it's particularly strained pun, you might want to call it catachresis. I don't think there's a specific term for it just because it's used in a simile. If there were, we might as well have a specific term for puns that are used in metaphors as well, and one for puns used alliteratively, and one for puns about chickens. With a limited vocabulary, words can only be so specific.

The defining feature of the category of puns you mention isn't that the pun is in a simile, but that that simile is a part of an allusion, generally with "attitude" and sarcasm associated with it. If you want a phrase that's been used before, you could try "biverbal allusion," which occurs in an 1833 essay by Charles Lamb.


*(Or double entendre, quip, witticism, calembour, paranomasia, antanaclasis...they're all basically the same; call it what you will.)

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Calembour(g) is a new one on me, but antanaclasis always makes me think of some antenna-class arthropod. –  tchrist Dec 1 '12 at 23:31
    
What about catachretic simile? +1 –  Kazark Dec 1 '12 at 23:38
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@Kazark The adjective form's actually spelled "catachrestic" (with an s before the t). –  3nafish Dec 1 '12 at 23:47
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@Kazark I think catachrestic allusion would be a better fit, given that the distinguishing feature is that it's an allusion. Also, it's a bit redundant to modify simile with catachrestic. –  3nafish Dec 1 '12 at 23:48

This sounds more like a syllepsis or a zeugma to me, wherein a word gets roped into doing double-duty. See this question for some possible differences between those, plus this surprisingly detailed Wikipedia article. The section that discusses when a "distributed term changes meaning" is particularly relevant to your State Farm example.

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Not sure why the downvote. Even though I don't think that's exactly right, I can certainly see that those are related, so +1. –  Kazark Dec 1 '12 at 23:27
    
@J.R. Merci. –  tchrist Dec 1 '12 at 23:39
    
@tchrist: My pleasure. I'm still LMAO at the Flight of the Conchords example. –  J.R. Dec 1 '12 at 23:50
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@J.R. Groucho uses these a lot: “Outside a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read anyway.” –  tchrist Dec 2 '12 at 0:13

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