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Figures of Speech

We may express our thoughts in

• plain or literal language;

• figurative language.

In figurative language, the writer or speaker employs FIGURES of SPEECH, which may be described as form of expression in which words are intentionally not used with their ordinary meaning or in their usual order.

Figures of speech are used to make expression more:

forceful, emphatic, striking, or pleasing.

The main figures of speech are:

1. Simile: a formal comparison of one thing with another, introduced by like, as, or some other comparing word, e.g.,

(a) I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills.

(b) And, like a lobster boiled, the morn

 From black to red began to turn.

2. Metaphor: a figure that likens one object to another by declaring it to be that other, e.g.,

(a) The plain was a sea of silver, the light of the moon was clear.

(b) And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise Their torn and rugged battlements on high.

It is an error to use mixed metaphors, that is, to use metaphors inconsistent with one another, e.g.,

I smell a rat, I see it floating in the air, but I will nip it in the bud.

3. Personification: a form of metaphor that attributes the qualities of a person to an abstract idea or a lifeless object,


In an instant, Death can humble the proud and insolent.

4. Metonymy: the figure that substitutes the name of one thing for the name of another thing with which it is connected in some way, e.g.,

(a) We are loyal to the throne.

(b) Please show more respect for grey hairs.

In these sentences, the throne and grey hairs have been substituted for “royal authority” and “old age”.

Unlike simile and metaphor, which are figures of likeness, metonymy is based on association of ideas.

5. Synecdoche: a form of metonymy which uses:

(a) the name of the part for the name of the whole, e.g.,

I haven’t a stitch to wear to the ball. (for dress)

(b) the name of the whole for the name of the part, e.g.,

Wielding the willow, he hit the leather for four..

6. Antonomasia: another form of metonymy. It substitutes a proper noun for a common, also an allusion e.g.,

He is a Donald Bradman. (excellent batsman)

7. Hyperbole: an exaggerated statement, e.g.,

The ball missed my wicket by a mile.

8. Meiosis: the figure that represents a thing as less than it is. It is the opposite of hyperbole, e.g.,

The car missed my sister by a hair’s breath.

9. Apostrophe: a figure by which an absent person or a personified idea is addressed. No reply is possible. eg.,

0 Death, where is thy sting? 0 Grave, where is thy victory?

10. Antithesis: a figure in which a sharp contrast is achieved by placing words or sentences in direct opposition, e.g.,

(a) Be not the first by whom the new are tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.

(b) To err is human; to forgive, divine.

11. Epigram: a condensed and pointed statement, e.g.,

 A favourite has no friend.

12. Paradox: an epigrammatic statement that seems to be absurd, e.g.,

(a) The child is father of the man.

(b) It takes a wise man to play the fool.

13. Oxymoron: a form of paradox in which an a contradiction is added to a word, e.g.,

(a) Parting is such sweet sorrow.

(b) A witty fool is preferable to a foolish wit.

14. Pun: a play on words having two or more different meanings, or on words resembling one another in sound, e.g.,

(a) A bad liver makes an unhappy liver.

(b) Better to be neat and tidy than tight and needy.is true, though it

adjective implying

15.  Onomatopoeia:  When a word makes its own sound.

Many words for the gross are onomatopoeic, like blat, they stir up a synesthetic reaction. Scientific experiments indicate that sound symbolism is at play in word formation. In determining the Bouba/Kiki Effect, people from cultures around the world were asked to identify a spiked shape and a round shape with the name Bouba or Kiki. 90% of people identified the spiky shape as Kiki and the round, blobby shape as Bouba.

Instead of exploring euphony this time, let’s turn up the volume on cacophony. What are the most gross, icky, blah-ful words you find in our usually delightful language to round out our exploration of phonaesthetics.

16. Climax: a figure in which the words are arranged in an ascending scale of importance, e.g.,

To gossip. is a fault; to libel, a crime; to slander, a sin,

17. Anticlimax: the opposite of climax. The last term in a series. is made less impressive than those preceding it. There, is a descent “from the sublime to the ridiculous”, also called bathos: e.g.,

Oscar is the brightest, bravest, ugliest lad I know.

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