Figures of Speech Figurative language uses figures of speech to convey unique images and create some sort of special effect or impression. A “figure of speech” is an intentional deviation from the ordinary usage of language.
Types of Figurative Language Simile Metaphor Personification Alliteration Onomatopoeia
Imagery What are your five senses? Sight, Hearing, Touch, Taste, and Smell An image conveys a sense perception, i.e., a visual picture, a sound, a feeling of touch, a taste, or an odor Imagery = a noun used to refer to a set of related images in poem or the totality of images in a poem:
Simile He ran down the field like a freight train.
Simile A simile is a figure of speech in which an explicit comparison is made using the comparative words like, as, resembles, than. Similes are easy to spot. (X is like Y: X is compared to Y in order to illustrate X more fancifully, poetically, or effectively. But Y is not a literal representation of X, not actual.) The team’s center looked like a skyscraper. My love is like a red, red rose. We were as quiet as frightened mice.
Simile Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.
Metaphor The process of describing one thing as if it were another. Does not use “like” or “as”
Metaphor A metaphor also compares, but a metaphor is a bit more sophisticated than a simile. For one thing, in a metaphor, the words like or as are missing. So readers have to recognize the comparison on their own without those easy words which help us to spot a simile so quickly.
Metaphor (continued) In a metaphor, a writer writes that X is Y. Readers understand that we are not to take the comparison literally, but that the metaphor helps us to see X in a new way. My brother is a prince. Gillette Stadium was a slaughterhouse.
Personification Another kind of comparison is called personification. Here, animals, elements of nature, and abstract ideas are given human qualities. John Milton calls time “the subtle thief of youth” (599). Homer refers to “the rosy fingers of dawn” (599). Other examples of personification – The stars smiled down on us. – An angry wind slashed its way across the island.
Personification A figure of speech in which a thing, quality, or idea is represented as a person.
Personification One lonely slice of pizza remained.
The flowers danced in the wind. The Earth coughed and choked in all of the pollution. The friendly gates welcomed us.
Personification The sun peeked over the mountain tops.
Personification After a long day of work, the swimming pool was calling my name.
Oxymoron Oxymoron - two contradictory terms are placed side by side, usually for an effect of intensity: darkness visible (John Milton) burning ice People often enjoy joking sarcastically by declaring certain pairs of words to be oxymorons: military intelligence
Apostrophe A person or thing which is absent is addressed: “What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman” (Ginsberg 599). “Oh sun, I miss you, now that it’s December.”
Alliteration The repetition of the same sound at the beginning of two or more closely associated words.
Alliteration Like loads of laundry lying on the lovely linoleum.
Alliteration Sally sells seashells by the seashore.
Alliteration Those creepy crawly critters caused a cramp in my cranium.
Want more? Figures of speech are numerous. The effective practice of communication is called rhetoric, and many, many figures of speech can be identified in language use. Some other figures are anachronism, euphemism, pun, and onomatopoeia (o no mat o pee ya). In this last figure, words are used to convey sound, like Oh no, you say? Here it comes! bzzzz or cock-a-doodle-doo.
Onomatopoeia A word that imitates the sound it represents.
Onomatopoeia The water gurgled as it flowed down the drain.
Onomatopoeia The storm clouds rumbled across the sky.
Birkerts, Sven. Literature: The Evolving Canon. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1993. Ginsberg, Allen. “A Supermarket in California.” Literature: The Evolving Canon. Sven P. Birkerts, ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1993. 599. Kennedy, X.J. and Dana Gioia, eds. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 1999. Works Cited