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Brief Introduction to Figures of

Speech in English Stylistics

Part One

What is Figures of Speech?

Figures of speech ( )are ways of


making our language figurative. When we
use words in other than their ordinary or
literal sense to lend force to an idea, to
heighten effect, or to create suggestive
imagery, we are said to be speaking or
writing figuratively.

Part Two Detailed Introduction to Figures of


Speech
Simile
A figure of speech in which one thing is
liken to another, in such a way as to clarify
and enhance an image. It is an explicit
comparison recognizable by the use of the
word like or as.
( A Dictionary of Literary Terms)

Comparative words: like, as


Functions: describing shape, scenery;
expressing emotions; explaining; vivid
description, making easy to understand;
creating interest.

Task: Can you figure out the simile


rules in the following sentences?
Examples:
My love is like a red red rose.
Marriage is like a beleaguered fortress: those who are
without want to get in, and those within want to get out.
Men fear death, as children fear to go in the dark.
What salt is to food, wit and humor are to conversation and
literature.
A home without love is no more than a body without a soul.
A word and stone let go cannot be recalled.
A doctor must have the heart of a lion and
the hand of a lady.

Metaphor
A figure of speech containing an
implied comparison, in which a word or
phrase ordinarily and primarily used of one
thing is applied to another.
(Websters New World Dictionary)

Metaphors are often easy to identify and


take the form X is Y. Something or
someone is being compared to something
or someone else through a construction
using the appropriate part of the verb to be
(i.e. am, are, is, was, were, will be).

Examples:
Money is a bottomless sea, in which
honor, conscience, and truth may be
drowned.
The boy wolfed down the food the moment
he grabbed it.
A policeman waved me out of the snake of
traffic.
Some books are to be tasted, others
swallowed, and some few to be chewed
and digested. ( Of Studies, Bacon)

Metonymy
A figure of speech that consists in
using the name of one thing for that of
something else with which it is associated.
(Websters New International Dictionary)

Examples:
She has the eye for the fair and the
beautiful.
What is learned in the cradle is carried to
the grave.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
China won 4 golds and 5 silvers.
This is the struggle between the kimono
and the miniskirt.

Parody
(Piece of ) writing intended to amuse by
imitating the style of writing used by
somebody else.
(Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of
Current English)

Examples:
I have no outlook, but an uplook. My place
in society was at the bottom.
Where there is a will, there is a lawsuit.
A husband in hand is worth two in the
bush.
He was born with a Cadillac in his mouth.
To lie or not to liethe doctors dilemma.

Personification
A figure of speech in which a thing, quality,
or idea is represented as a person.
(Websters New World Dictionary)

Examples:
Love, free as air, at sight of human ties,
spreads his light wings, and in a moment
flies.

A lie can travel half way around the


world while the truth is putting on its
shoes.
Australia is so kind that, just tickle her
with a hoe, and she laughs with a
harvest.

Onomatopoeia
Combination of sounds in a word that
imitating what the word refers to, like hiss
or boom.

Examples:
Murmur, babble, swish, patter, rumble, roll,
rustle, zip, toot, tick, tinkle, screech, bang,
bubble, clang, crack, splash, grumble

Euphemism
The use of pleasant, mild or indirect
words or phrases in place of more
accurate or direct ones.

Examples: Examples: Death


Go west
At rest
Asleep
Return to dust
Run ones races

Hyperbole/Overstatement

An exaggerated or extravagant
statement used as a figure of speech
(American Heritage Dictionary)

Exaggeration for effect, not meant to be


taken literally
(The Websters New World Dictionary)

Extravagant exaggeration
(The Websters Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)

Examples:
Its a crime to stay inside on such a
beautiful day.
The most effective water power in the
world womens tears
For she was beautiful her beauty made
the bright world dim, and everything beside
seemed like the fleeting image of a shade.

Shelly

Understatement
Statement that expressed an idea, etc,
too weakly.
(Advanced Learners Dictionary)

Examples:
The well-known Victorian critique of
Cleopatra's behavior: "So unlike the home
life of our own dear Queen!
He is a man not without ambition.
Money is a kind of tight, but I can manage.

Parallelism
The arrangement of a number of related
ideas of the same importance in a number
of parallel or balanced structures forms
a integrated whole, in order to intensify
emotion and to emphasize the authors
point.

Examples:
An Englishman thinks seated;
a Frenchman, standing;
an American, pacing;
an Irishman, afterward.
Read not to contradict and confuse; nor to
believe and take for granted; nor to find
talk and discourse; but to weigh and
consider.

Contrast
A difference between two or more
people or things that you can see clearly
when they are compared or put close
together; the fact of comparing two or
more things in order to show the
differences between them.

Examples:
Men always want to be a womans first
love; women have more subtle instinct;
what they like is to be a mans last
romance.
Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let
us never fear to negotiate.

Antithesis
Contrast of ideas marked by the choice
and arrangement of words.

Examples:
Knowledge make humble, ignorance
make proud.
Life can only be understood backwards,
but it must be lived forwards.
The life of the wolf is the death of the
lamb.

Oxymoron
The yoking together of two expressions
which are incompatible, so that in
combination they have no conceivable
literal reference to reality.

Examples:
It (New York) has the poorest millionaires,
the littlest great men, the haughtiest
beggars, the plainest beauties, the lowest
skyscrapers, the dolefulest pleasures of
any town I ever saw.

Pun
An amusing use of a word or phrase that
has two meanings, or words with the same
sound but different meanings.

Examples:
To England will I steal, and there Ill steal.
We must hang together, or we shall all
hang separately.

Zeugma
A figure of speech in which a single
word, usually a verb or adjective, is
syntactically related to two or more words,
with only one of which it seems logically
connected.
(Websters New World Dictionary of the
American Language)

Examples:
She opened the door and her heart to the
homeless boy.
She dropped a tear and her pocket
handkerchief.

Allusion
An allusion is a figure of speech that
makes a reference to, or representation of,
people, places, events, literary work,
myths, or works of art, either directly or by
implication.

Examples:
The heel of Achilles
small but weak or vulnerable point, eg.
In sbs character
Tower of Babel
tower built to reach heaven

Irony
A method of humorous or subtle
sarcastic expression in which the intended
meaning of the words used is the direct
opposite of their usual sense.
(Websters New World Dictionary)

Examples:
We send missionaries to China so the
Chinese can get to heaven, but we dont
let them into our country.
Her capacity for family affection is
extraordinary; when her third husband
died, her hair turned quite gold from grief.

Transferred Epithet
A figure of speech in which an epithet
(or adjective) grammatically qualifies a
noun other than the person or thing it is
actually describing.

Examples:
a dizzy height
a sleepless bed
a icy look
the happy energy
After an unthinking moment, she put her
pen into her mouth.

Climax
A rhetorical series of ideas, images, etc.
arranged progressively so that the most
forceful is last.

Examples:
He who loses wealth loses much; he who
loses a friend loses more; but he who
loses courage loses all.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be
swallowed, and some few to be chewed
and digested.

Anticlimax
A rhetorical series of ideas, images, etc.
arranged progressively so that the most
forceful is in front.

Examples:
This city- Hiroshima- is noted for itsoysters.
The duties of a soldier are to protect his
country and peel potatoes.

Alliteration
Occurrence of the same letter or sound
at the beginning of two or more words
in succession.

Examples:
Next to health, heart, home, happiness
for mobile Americans depends upon the
automobile.
Pride and prejudice