When someone calls you a “diamond in the rough” Would you get offended. I hope not. I would suggest you take it as compliment. For what he essentially means is that at a glance you may appear to be common or ordinary but he recognizes a very precious and valuable potential within you which may require some effort to be brought out in the open.
A number of phrases or idioms are used in English which use analogies. Analogies basically make use of similes or metaphors to explain the meaning more lucidly. Analogies can generally be understood by people using a particular language. But it is also possible to for small social groups to develop their own analogies and which in fact becomes a binding factor for the group. There are some analogies which are specific to a particular country or region.
Similie is a kind of analogy where the comparison between two things is made evident by the use of words ‘like’ or ‘as’. For example, you would be using a simile when you say “My brother is as stubborn as a mule”. A metaphor, on the other hand is an analogy where two different things are compared which have some quality in common. ‘Diamond in the Rough’ is an English idiom which has its analogy to a diamond.
It is a well known fact that diamonds are extracted from mines. In this stage a diamond does not look beautiful, it looks more like a glassy rock or a rock of salt. Once the diamond reaches the hands of an expert, it goes through the process of cleaning, cutting and polishing. It’s only after this laborious process that the rough diamond acquires the sparkle and brilliance which is considered to be of high value.
When this analogy is applied to an individual, like referring to someone as a “diamond in the rough” it means that the speaker sees a great potential in the individual and knows that he can scale brilliance provided some work is done in the right direction to bring out the full potential of the person.
A raw diamond cannot be used as a piece of jewelry. The diamond cutter uses his expertise to cut and polish the diamond, The end result may be a smaller stone shorn of all unnecessary residue but resulting in a brilliant piece of sparkling stone.
The phrase “diamond in the rough” may further mean that a rough diamond requires the services of an expert to bring out the brilliance but in contrast if you want to be that brilliant stone, you would have to put in a lot of work to make it a reality.
When used for a man “diamond in the rough” can also refer to a good or gentle person who is hidden by his rough or harsh exterior. The phrase “diamond in the rough” can be used for a child who is obviously having talent. An entry-level employee in an organization may be regarded as a “diamond in the rough” for the obvious potential he demonstrates.
A lot of analogies are used in languages and it is essential to get acquainted with its meaning and usage so that you don’t miss out on the beauty of words used in a language. So knowledge and practice in the use of idioms and analogies is crucial to learning and understanding any language.