Figures Of Speech

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,

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

Pathetic Fallacy: to attribute human feelings to an abstract idea or object.

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 staement 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 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.

18. Irony #

Irony comes in many forms, but essentially refers to a discrepancy between what is said and what is meant. There is the obvious, literal or superficial meaning and on another level, an intended, deeper or opposite meaning. Irony is often subtle. There are at least 5 kinds:

  • Dramatic - The audience/reader knows something the speaker is not aware of.

  • Situational — When circumstances turn out opposite of what is expected.

  • Verbal - The words used are the opposite to the intended meaning.

  • Tonal - The writer adopts one tone but the reader responds with an opposite one. Eg: the writer calmly describes an horrific scene that arouses horror in the reader.

  • Authorial - Comments or interpretation of the author is undermined by an undercurrent or below-the-surface implication, contradicting each other.

Irony has the ability to heighten and hold the reader’s interest by giving pleasure, relief, humour and stimulus. It is an inclusive device seeming to take the responder into the composer’s confidence. Irony is seldom malicious or spiteful.


He has, despite what we see on the video, a natural affinity and love of horses.

Barrister Ian Hill KC defends the Melbourne Cup-winning horse trainer Darren Weir, who has admitted to three animal cruelty charges.

If only Weir could express his love in ways that do not involve torturing horses with an electronic cattle prod (The Guardian).