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Stock Visual Metaphors

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A visual metaphor uses an image to represent something else entirely. Some have become standard through use and re-use — some even to the point of having standard parodies or subversions.

For internal emotions and sensations, visual metaphors mostly serve the Rule of Perception. For external actions and events, they can serve as unusual euphemisms for sex and violence.

See also Briffits and Squeans.




  • Drama:
  • Excrement:
  • Getting clocked:
  • Penis:
    • Banana
    • Hot dog (the fact that it's sometimes called a "wiener" helps)
    • Elephant (in Japanese things) - also eggplant (traditional phallic symbol) and turtle's heads (pun on a slang term for foreskin).
    • The ♂ symbol may also be used, with the arrow portion representing the penis itself.
    • A gun or a knife
    • Hose (especially to imply a man urinating)
  • Sex:
    • Large rocket lifting off
    • Train entering a tunnel
    • Jackhammering
  • Deflorationnote 
    • A single falling flower petal, or a falling rosebud
  • Orgasm:
    • Geyser spouting
    • Fireworks
    • Champagne cork popping, followed by a frothy overflow
    • Screen awashes in white light
    • Something Else Also Rises - visual metaphors for erections and/or orgasms.
  • Phlegmings uses saliva or phlegm to suggest fear and fright.
  • Power Glows uses glowing to show the presence of energy.
  • Time-Compression Montage uses cuts to imply that a large amount of time has passed without showing the time directly.
  • Audible Sharpness is sometimes accompanied by the blade twinkling or shining as it makes the noise.
  • Big Ball of Violence uses a big cloud of smoke / dust to imply an intense fight going on.
  • The Flame of Life: Fire is used to represent life.
  • Floating Clocks big, spectral clocks to let you know you're traveling through time.
  • Death:
    • X's on the eyes (can sometimes simply mean the person is unconscious).
    • A cut to a small animal dying.
    • Flatlines are sometimes used symbolically but can be used literally.
    • An item belonging to the dead/dying person lying discarded.
    • A character turning into an angel.
    • Dying Candle
    • Knife (to imply someone was murdered).
    • Coffin.
    • Tombstone.
    • Cutting to a church.
  • If fireworks or champagne corks aren't meant to symbolise an orgasm, they're often used to symbolise happiness, excitement, American patriotism (in the case of fireworks), or celebration. American patriotism is often symbolised by eagles as well.
  • Currency signs (e.g. "$") will symbolise greed, expense, or wealth.
  • A knife and fork in a thought bubble means a character is hungry.
  • The letter "X" is either used to mark a spot or (especially if it's red) mean "no" or "prohibited".
  • A skull and crossbones means either "danger" or "pirates" depending on context. A skull by itself can mean either of those things or death.
  • A toilet in a thought bubble means someone's having a Potty Emergency.
  • Fish bones are used to mean something smells bad, an area is messy, or a cat is nearby.
  • Christmas:
  • Babies:

Alternative Title(s): Stock Visual Metaphor