The figurative language of Ellen Barry…

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I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes from writer Ellen Barry….

Ellen Barry is a London-based international correspondent for The New York Times, covering immigration, security, demographics and culture across Europe.

But what drew me to her most recent column was the hats. Under the compelling headline, “Hats Like Sneezes, Playing at Aristocracy and Other Notes From Royal Ascot,” — and amusing photos — Ellen Barry presented her analysis of Ascot 2019.

The Ascot Racecourse was founded in 18th century by Queen Anne. The first race, “Her Majesty’s Plate”, with a purse of 100 guineas, was held on Aug. 11, 1711 with seven horses competing.

Ascot today stages 26 days of racing over  the year, between May and October. The Royal Meeting held each June, remains a major draw, its highlight being The Gold Cup

But what struck me about Ellen Barry’s piece was not the racing; it was the writing. Here are my favourite examples of her figurative language:

  • There were hats that looked like swarms of gnats. There were hats that looked like side salads. There were hats that looked like small seafaring vessels. There were hats that looked like sneezes. There were hats decorated with concertina wire and scallions. There were midair explosions involving baby eagles. There were quite a few hats that made me wonder if sufficient oxygen was reaching my brain.
  •  They seemed posh to me, in a “Brideshead Revisited” way, and I asked one of them if they went to Oxford.
  • I had devoted an entire day to interviewing people at Ascot, and had a notebook full of quotations, but it was like the lint that you peel out of the wire basket in a dryer. It did not add up to anything.
  • Some sort of electric current went through the crowd; a tall man beside me drew the air into the bottom of his lungs and commenced singing like a bassoon; people were waving Union Jacks on sticks.

But be sure to click on the link to Barry’s article and check out the photos of the hats. They are very funny….

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