Wodehouse, Similes, and Summer

Evelyn Waugh said of the fiction writing of fellow English author P. G. Wodehouse: “Mr. Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.” 

Ours are indeed irksome times, so take Waugh at his word and treat yourself to some Wodehouse this summer. The page-to-smile ratio is about one-to-one; the page-to-guffaw ratio is not far behind. It’s Wodehouse, that undisputed master of similes, who first made me fall in love with the literary device that conveys so much with so little.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then consider this my salute to the great P. G. Wodehouse generally and his penchant for similes particularly:

  • Rye believed he wasn’t at fault but, as surely as naming a daughter Alexa contributes to feelings of inadequacy in a world she feels asks everything of her, he was mistaken.
  • Like leaving a massive inheritance not to an underserved but undeserving community, Lou learned the hard way that attention to detail matters.
  • Jed agreed to watch the movie with Becky, but suspected he’d feel about as much suspense as when he’d first read Death Comes for the Archbishop.
  • Jeff read the critic’s surprisingly charitable review of his atrocious one-act play and sensed, like a dollar-store customer in an inflationary environment, he was making out like a bandit.
  • Paisley’s news was received poorly not because it was bad in itself but, like hearing steel drums in the dead of a Montana winter, the timing was off.
  • Gary’s question was as off-putting as being asked during a friend’s move if you’ve read the The Cask of Amontillado just as you’re backing into a darkened self-storage unit.
  • Like a man who’d made a fortune by reading everything not Warren Buffett but Jimmy Buffett had ever written, Paulie felt more lucky than smart.
  • The car alarm startled Ryno, but only in a mildly surprising yet meaningless kind of way, like when you realize at the paint store counter you have no idea what to ask Sherwin Williams.
  • Doug savored the moment, which was as serendipitous as overhearing Jackson Browne say “doctor, my eyes” to his ophthalmologist.
  • With each whiskey shot Bill realized, like making your wife a 25th anniversary massage coupon and placing it in a used Tiffany Blue Box, his decision-making was rapidly deteriorating.  
  • Greg always meant the very best but, like a vegetarian coming off a three-day fast in the meatpacking district, sometimes he cut corners.
  • As surely as never breaking eye contact with your dental hygienist during cleaning is bad form, Ralph knew passing Cinnabon without making a purchase was the right thing to do. 
  • Ozzy regretted his decision not because it was difficult but because, like choosing not to name your telemarketing company “Potential Spam,” it should have been so darn easy. 
  • The moment the words left her lips, Devin, as if she’d whispered in a library to Edwin Starr 50 years ago, asking him what war was good for, regretted saying them.
  • Despite sensing lasting gain from minimal effort, Geri knew that apologizing, like looking up the word shambolic, was something she should but never actually would do.
  • Martin changed his behavior the moment he realized, like waving at taxi drivers during rush hour just to say hello, he wasn’t the only person being affected by his actions.
  • Hugh concluded his colleague’s gesture, like an out-of-town houseguest whose overnight belongings include a plunger, was more troubling than thoughtful. 


For far better similes, and side-splittingly funny stories crafted around them, don’t settle for weak beer: Read P. G. Wodehouse. Our irksome times will still be here when you get back.

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About Mike Kerrigan

Mike Kerrigan is an attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Charlotte Observer, and at Fox News.

Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Images via Getty Images