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 ================= FIGURES OF SPEECH ================= Alliteration Use of two or more words with
the same initial letters: I sing of brooks, of
blossoms, birds and bowers (Robert Herrick, Argument
of his Book) Antithesis Placing together of sharply contrasting
ideas: They died that we might live. Aphorism Terse,
witty, pointed statement on a general principle:
Anybody who hates children and dogs can't be all bad
(W. C. Fields). Bathos Sudden descent into
the rediculous, often for comic effect: He's a gentleman:
look at his boots. (George Bernard Shaw). Climax Series of statements in rising
order of intensity: I came. I saw. I conquered.
(Julius Cæsar). Euphemism Polite or inoffensive way of saying
something unpleasant: Euphemisms such as 'slumber
room'.... abound in the funeral business.
(Jessica Mitford). Hyperbole Exaggerated statement used for emphasis:
A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!
(William Shakespeare, Richard III ). Innuendo Indirect
or Subtle implication, usually unpleasant: I'll be
delighted to attend his funeral. Irony Saying of one thing
but meaning the opposite: But Brutus is an
honourable man. (William Shakespeare Julius Cæsar).
Litotes An ironical understatement in
which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of
its opposite: This is no small problem.
Metaphor Figure of speech in which something,
or someone, is said to be that which it only resembles:
When it comes to fighting, he's a tiger!
of speech in which opposites are combined for effect:
Faith unfaithfully kept him falsely true. (Tennyson).
Simile Figure of speech in
which one thing is compared to another, usually with
the word 'like' or 'as': When the evening is spread
out against the sky, Like a patient etherised upon a
table. (T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred
Using the same word, in different senses, to govern
two or more other words: He took his leave and my
umbrella. ======================  FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING (and WRITING) ====================== SIMILARITY Simile Metaphor Allegory Fable Parable Personification CONTRAST Antithesis Oxymoron Epigram Irony Sarcasm Innuendo Hyperbole Litotes Euphemism Pun ASSOCIATION Metonymy Synecdoche ARRANGEMENT Interrogation Apostrophe Repetition Pleonasm Bathos / Anticlimax Climax "FIGURATIVELY
SPEAKING" (and WRITING) INTRODUCTION: Use
of Language: Writers need to be aware of the power which
words possess. And part of that learning is to study
FIGURES of SPEECH / WRITING.
They are not just an adornment.
In some respects, they are the bedrock
of communication. Figures of Speech are a set of tools
essential for all writers.
Conveying a complex
idea can be virtually impossible without an
IMAGE or analogy. Indeed, this process is probably
central to thought itself. Even the simple letters
"a" and "b" began as symbols for an 'ox' and 'house'
respectively. FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE: A word/phrase is
said to be used figuratively when it is intended to
convey, not its literal (ME/OF = letter of alphabet)
meaning, but a secondary or derived meaning which is
understood by the listener / reader. Thus,
the adjective SWEET applies literally to TASTE.
But we also
speak of SWEET MUSIC, SWEET WORDS, SWEET-HEART etc.
These (metaphors) are all Figures of Speech.
Everyday language is
riddled with METAPHOR - so deeply embedded that they
are often overlooked e.g.,
to consider and
to contemplate. CONSIDER is related
to SIDEREAL = examining the fixed stars or stellar
constellations. CONTEMPLATE is related to
TEMPLE = Latin templum = open or consecrated place,
a place for observation.
Latin-rooted verbs originally referred to the meditation
and observation of the Heavens by Roman soothsayers.
FIGURES of SPEECH serve
two roles: (A) ORNAMENTATION:
Who has ornaments around
their house? What would your home be like
without them? They give beauty and variety to
what we wish to say and lift it from a commonplace /
monotonous level. Without Figures of Speech our
writing would be plodding and boring.
A complex subject
can best be conveyed by an analogy.
A Figure of Speech
usually contains both the above functions - they
are at once ARTISTIC and EXPLANATORY. So the purpose
of this exercise is to make you aware, as writers,
of the power and degrees of choice you have when
using figures of speech in English.
(Dict: FIGURE = Latin: fashion)
When look at siblings,
parents do not just comment upon how alike their
children are. What other factors are considered
(differences)? So it is the same with the family of
Figures of Speech. We will look not only at SIMILARITIES,
but also CONTRASTS, ASSOCIATION and ARRANGEMENT.
Of all Figures of Speech the most used are
SIMILIE and METAPHOR
NOTE/ASIDE: What follows contains many TECHNICAL
/ Jargon words because former Grammarians
were immersed in Greek and Latin terms.
effective way of communicating a complex abstract
idea / notion is to emphasize how it resembles
something else - preferably something which is familiar
and concrete. In everyday life, we often use SIMILARITY
to get our point across. (Dict: Latin similis = like)
Simile is an EXPLICIT / OPEN
COMPARISON. It brings out the 'likeness' between
two things. Similies are clearly indicated by the
words LIKE or AS (as if, as though)
L I K E :
My love is LIKE
a red, red rose. Your teeth are LIKE
stars (they come out at night!)
He is LIKE
a mad dog. She was shaking
LIKE a leaf. The Assyrians came
down LIKE a wolf on the fold. A face like a frightened
A S :
AS a lion. I wandered
lonely AS a cloud. When SHAKESPEARE
wanted to convey the abstract 'quality of
mercy', he used a similie: The quality of mercy is
not strained, It droppeth AS the gentle rain
from Heaven upon the earth beneath.
SIMILIES are usually drawn
from HISTORY, LEGEND, or NATURE.
similis = like)
METAPHOR - is an IMPLIED / HIDDEN COMPARISON. In
some ways it is a CONDENSED SIMILIE. The words
'like' and 'as' are not used. Instead of
making the comparison side by side (like against
like) a metaphor is stated together in combination e.g.,
'silver moon' means that 'the moon is as
bright as silver'. Metaphorical language takes
many forms: EXAMPLES:
Frankie is a
TOWER OF STRENGTH. Your the CREAM in
my coffee. How did Dickens describe
'the Law'? = The law is an ASS.
of her life. Christ is the
BREAD of Life. Thy word is a LAMP
unto my feet and a LIGHT unto my path.
What type of metaphor is the Bard using here?
There is a TIDE
in the affairs of men Which TAKEN AT THE
FLOOD, Leads on to fortune.
Omitted, ALL THE VOYAGE
of our life Is bound in SHALLOWS and in
miseries. On such A FULL SEA ARE WE NOW
CAUTION: THE METAPHOR needs to be used carefully. Some
degree of mental effort is needed by your reader.
do not get too far-fetched, otherwise, the images you
conjure up may be confusing or foolish.
Do not OVERUSE
or sustain beyond the point of interest.
METAPHORS "He put his foot down with a firm hand".
transference / META = involving change + PHEREIN =
to bear, carry).
ALLEGORY is a metaphor (or series of linked metaphors)
EXPANDED into a tale. Its purpose is
to teach by illustration some ABSTRACT TRUTH
(e.g., morality or religious). Therefore, once a
writer gets into a metaphorical mode, the imagination
can stretch it into a full story or allegory.
John Bunyan (1628-86)
preacher & writer Pilgrim's Progress (1678) = hero's
journey comparable with that of an ordinary Christian's
life. William Langland (1332-1400?) English
poet Piers the Ploughman a religious poem about _____ ?
Spencer's Faerie Queen - based upon the reign of
(1903-50 Eric Arthur Blair) English novelist / essayist
= Animal Farm (1945) an allegory of the Russian
Revolution. (Dict: Greek ALLEGORIA: ALLO
= other + AGORIA = to make a speech in public).
FABLE is a SHORT moral story which is SIMILAR to an
allegory. in which animals (or objects) speak and act
as people in order to highlight human failings.
The MORAL is
often stated at the end of the piece. The best known are
AESOPS FABLES (translated into many languages). Aesop
was a deformed Phrygian slave (?620-564 BC), but
some of his tales have been traced back to Egyptian
documents 1,000 years earlier.
I need example (Brewer).
Lewis Carroll (1832-86 Rev.
Charles Lutteridge? Dodgson) English writer, Oxford
math.don = Alice in Wonderland (1865), Looking-Glass
(1872). (Dict: ME/OF from Latin FABLA = discourse
PARABLE is a simple story from ordinary life,
intended to imply some deep moral or spiritual TRUTH.
of the Bramble ?? or Christ often spoke
in paparables such as The Good Samaritian
The Sower and seeds falling
on rocky ground. the buried Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
Talent = Greek unit of money, but then applied to
the Ten Wise
Virgins, etc. (Dict: Latin comparison
/ Greek PARABOLE, analogy = placing side by side; like
PARALLEL = alongside one another).
Personification - is a figure of speech which ascribes
the animate qualities (life, thoughts, speech,
feelings, etc.) to things or abstract notions
(love is blind or a ship as 'she').
therefore, is similar to Metaphor and Allegory.
Necessity knows no
law. Hope springs eternal.
Let the floods clap their
hands. I kissed the hand of death.
use personification - whether we know it or not -
when we describe - a promising morning
- a treacherous sea
- a thankless task
(Dict: Latin persona
= actor's mask, character in a play, human being).
We now move
from Figures of Speech which highlight SIMILARITY
to ones which stress DIFFERENCE in order to
communicate our meaning to others.
CONTRA = against; STAER = stand = stand against)
- conveys a clear idea of what a thing is by stating
what IT IS NOT. EXAMPLES:
He wept for
joy. Speech is silver;
Silence is golden. To err is human, to
forgive is divine. The evil that men do lives
after them, The good is often interred with
their bones. (Dict: Greek: ANTI = against /
TITHERM = place, putting)
Oxymoron - is a statement which, on the surface, seems
to contradict itself - a kind of concise paradox.
There is method in his
madness. Condemned to a living death.
Faith unfaithful kept him falsely
true. (Dict: Greek OXUS = sharp / MORON =
foolish = pointedly foolish.
Epigram - a pointed saying; a short poem with a witty
ending; a thing written upon. An epigram was
originally an inscription to some hero. If this was
inscribed in stone, it obviously had to be brief,
pointed expression of the person's qualities showing
a contrast. Epigram is in the same
camp as a PROVERB. Indeed, many epigrams have become
less speed. Conspicuous by
its absence. Epigram written to
Charles II during his lifetime: "Here lies a man whose
word no man relies on; Who never said a foolish
thing, and never did a wise one"
He replied in
like vein: "True; my words
are my own; My actions,
my ministers" (Dict: Greek EPI-
= upon / above; -GRAM = a thing written or recorded)
- With irony the words used suggest the OPPOSITE
of their literal meaning. The effect of
irony, however, can depend upon the tone of voice and
the context. EXAMPLES:
"Brutus is an honourable man" Need better examples
- can you help? NOTE: AN IRONIC remark
implies a double / dual view of things:
a. a literal meaning,
and b. a different intention
Irony can be used to create
amusement - unlike Sarcasm.
= 'pretend ignorance' or saying the opposite of what
Sarcasm - is irony, but with a bitter and offensive
tone / intent (a parallel between Humour and
Satire). A sarcastic remark suggests a cruel and taunting
ridicule; a bitter, wounding comment; a taunt.
See how these
Christians love one another. He is a perfect
Solomon Expression: 'Sarcasm
is the lowest form of wit'. (Dict: Greek verb "to tear
the flesh" hence to "bit one's lips in rage" or
Innuendo - is a figure by which a certain meaning
- usually unpleasant - is conveyed by insinuation.
An oblique remark
or hint. A remark with double meaning - usually
suggestive / disparaging. EXAMPLES:
resources are like the snakes in Ireland (none
existant) His idea of the
truth is peculiar (he lies). (Dict: Latin - nod at
or point to)
Hyperbole - exaggeration for effect (rather than deceiving
anyone). No one imagines that a hyperbolic
statement be taken seriously.
ran as fast as lightning. The professor's
ideas are as old as the hills. The troops were swifter
than eagles and stronger than lions.
HAMLET: "I loved
Ophelia: forty thousand brothers could not with all
their quantity of love Make up the sum" (to Laertes)
(Dict: Greek - HYPER- over,
beyond; BALLO to throw = excess)
Litotes - is the opposite of hyperbole. Ironical
understatement. The expressing of a positive by a negative
statement. The writer
purposely under-rates a thing and achieves an effect
by denying the contrary. UNDERSTATEMENT
I sharn't be
sorry = I shall be glad. The nurse is not
a fool (is clever). Marlborough was a
general of no mean reputation (he was great).
The executive is not
a millionaire (is poor). Check Anglo-Saxon verse
(Dict: Greek - LITOS plain,
Euphemism - literally "speaking well". A
euphemism contrast something terrible with
something pleasant in order to soften the effect of
the bad news. The words
used do not bear their literal meaning. Euphemism
resembles Irony and Innuendo, but while the effects of
the latter can be offensive or irritating, those
of Euphemism are meant to be soothing. A mild or
vague expression instead of one thought to be too
harsh or direct. EXAMPLES:
my grandad passed away (died) last night
or he kicked
the bucket. What, must our
mouths be cold? (must we die?) (Dict: Greek - EU-
well, easily; PHEME speaking)
Pun - is a play on words - either their
different meanings or upon two
different words sounding the same. Humorous use
of a word to suggest different meanings; or of
words of the same sound and different meanings.
Is life worth
living? That depend on the liver! That lie shall lie
so heavy upon thy sword. Not on thy sole but on
thy soul, harsh fool. (Dict: 17th.c. perhaps from
obsolete word PUNDIGRION - a fanciful formation):
two elements of comparison are FUSED.
item is replaced by something closely associated
with it: EXAMPLES:
The CROWN is
used in the place of THE MONARCHY Turf for Horse-
= the Police (Dict: Greek
substitute naming; META involving transfer + ONOMA
item under discussion is replaced by something
referring to one of its PARTS or something that
it is part of: EXAMPLES:
A fleet of 80
sail where the word SAIL
stands in for SAILING SHIPS England won by six wickets.
New faces at the meeting
might stand in for NEWCASTLE UNITED FOOTBALL TEAM
(Dict: Greek - SYN
- with, together, alike; EKDOKHE to take up, or
understand, with another)
Interrogation is a rhetorical question. It is asked
not in the hope of getting an answer, but for effect.
When this device / stratagem is used it is a Figure
of Speech EXAMPLES:
Can a leopard
change its spots? To be or not to be?
That is the question... What kind of fool am I?
How long is a piece of string?
(Dict: Latin INTER- between, among;
Apostrophe - is a figure of speech by which a person
- generally ABSENT or dead - or personified
abstract idea is addressed: EXAMPLE:
which art in Heaven...Hallowed be thy name...
Norma Jean, though I never knew you at all - England's
Rose tribute to Princess Diana (Elton John)
England, with all
thy faults I love thee still, My Country!
APO- from, away; STREPHO turn = turning away
Repetition - as a figure of speech, is a mode of
EMPHASIZING a point by saying it more than once. This
can take two forms: (a) SAME
WORDS: same word repeated over and over Water, water,
everywhere, and not a drop to drink. Half a league,
half a league, half a league onward.
education, education (Tony Blair 1997 Election)
She loves you,
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! (The Beatles, 1963?)
WORDS: - this is called PARALLELISM - At
her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down;
RE- again, back; PETERE seek)
Pleonasm - Superfluous words - is a form of
REPETITION in which the SAME IDEA is expressed
again in a DIFFERENT GRAMMATICAL CONSTRUCTION. a VERB
may be repeated by an ADVERBIAL PHRASE; or a NOUN may
be mirrored by an ADJECTIVE. EXAMPLES:
I saw it with
my own eyes. Most falsely doth
he lie. Essex had a sole monopoly
of the sweet wines. Pleonasm can be effective, but
should be used sparingly. The grave danger is that
of slipping into TAUTOLOGY:
TAUTOLOGY = is a faulty style when the same thing is
said twice in different words EXAMPLES:
one after the other in succession. (Dict: Greek PLEONAZO
to be superfluous)
Bathos / Anticlimax - Statements gradually
DESCEND in order of importance. It is used
humorously with success; but otherwise, when
unintentional, it can produce a ludicrous effect.
is a great philosopher, a member of parliament and plays
golf well. She lost her
husband, her children - and her purse.
had a great love for Agnes, such as words could
never express. When he first set eyes upon her, she was
cutting her toe-nails. (Dict: Greek BATHOS
Climax - is the arrangement of a series of
statements in order of ASCENDANCY, so that the last
is the STRONGEST of all - the most positive, and
I came, I saw,
I conquered. What piece of work
is Man? How infinite in faculties!
In form and
motion how express and admirable! In action how like
an angel! In apprehension how like
a god! (Hamlet) (Dict: Greek CLIMAX ladder
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