Aristotle wrote that mastery over the art of metaphor is a sign of genius, but what does this ubiquitous literary term mean in its most basic form? A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a term is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “She is a rose.” Excluding the possibility that the subject of this sentence is literally a flower, this example suggests that the subject possesses figurative extensions of qualities or attributes of a rose, such as exquisite beauty or perhaps a prickly disposition.
1. Sea of grief.
2. Fishing for compliments.
3. Broken heart.
4. Light of my life.
5. It's raining men.
Metaphor is often confused with simile, a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared. That explicit comparison often takes the form of the word like or as. To build on the example in the previous slide, “she is like a rose” and “as thorny as a rose bush” are examples of simile.
1. As cute as a kitten.
2. As busy as a bee.
3. As snug as a bug in a rug.
4. As happy as a clam.
5. As black as coal.
Simile and metaphor are both forms of analogy, the illustration of one idea by a more familiar or accessible idea that is in some way parallel. In his novel Cocktail Hour, P.G. Wodehouse uses the analogy of a man expecting to hear a rose petal drop in the Grand Canyon to illustrate the futility of a novelist hoping for swift success: "It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo."
1. The relationship between them began to thaw.
2. You are as annoying as nails on a chalkboard.
3. I am going to be toast when I get home.
4. He is like a rock.
5. I feel like a fish out of water.
Hyperbole is an obvious and intentional exaggeration, such as “I read a million books this summer.” Although teachers everywhere would likely rejoice if this were a true statement, plausibility is not the intended use of hyperbole: this literary device is often used for dramatic or comedic effect.
1. It was so cold i saw polar bears wearing jackets.
2. I am so hungry I could eat a horse.
3. She is as thin as a toothpick.
4. We are poor and don't have two cents to rub together.
5. I had a ton of chores to do.
An allusion is an indirect reference to a person, place, event, or artistic work. Allusions assume a level of familiarity on the part of the reader with the work, person, or event referenced. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one of the con artists who claims to be an heir to the French throne makes allusions to three of Shakespeare’s plays in his jumbled rendition of Hamlet’s soliloquy, which opens with the humorously botched line “To be or not to be: that is the bare bodkin.”
1. I was surprised his nose was not growing like Pinocchio's.
2. When she lost her job, she acted like a Scrooge.
3. He was a real Romeo with the ladies.
4. This place is like a Garden of Eden.
5. You are a Solomon when it comes to making decisions.
Euphemism is the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be harsh, blunt, or offensive. Break wind, the birds and the bees, and cold turkey are euphemisms for flatulence, sex and reproduction, and a quick, complete withdrawal from the use of an addictive substance, respectively. The opposite of euphemism is dysphemism, defined as the substitution of a harsh, disparaging, or unpleasant expression for a more neutral one.
1. Passed away instead of died.
2. Correction facility instead of prison.
3. Turn a drick instead of engage in prostitution.
4. Collateral damage instead of accidental death.
5. Letting someone go instead of firing someone.
A paradox is a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but may in reality express a truth or tension. William Wordsworth offers an example of paradox in his poem My Heart Leaps Upwith the line “the Child is the father of the Man.” This expression defies common sense on a literal level, but expresses a deeper truth that our dominant character traits are formed when we are young, and they continue to shape our experiences as adults. Paradoxcomes from the Greek word parádoxos, which means “beyond belief.”
1. Jumbo shrimp.
2. I'm nobody.
3. Wise fool.
5. A rich man is no richer than a poor man.
Similar to paradox, the rhetorical device oxymoron uses contradiction, but an oxymoron is more compressed than a paradox. An oxymoron is a figure of speech that produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, such as in the phrase “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly,” or more famously in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet when Romeo utters the lines “O loving hate” and “O heavy lightness” in the opening scene.
1. The same difference.
2. Great Depression.
3. Cruel to be kind.
4. Pain for pleasure.
5. Clearly confused.
Satire is a slippery concept that can sometimes be deeply embedded in a work’s themes or narrative, and sometimes closer to the surface in the actions or behavior of characters: simply put, satire is the use of irony, sarcasm, or ridicule in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice or folly. Jonathan Swift’s 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels is an example of satirical fiction. Written in the style of travel writing of its day, Gulliver’s Travels also provides an example of parody, defined as “a humorous imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing.”
1. Marriage is the chief cause for divorce.
2. It's a catastrophic success.
3. I am not young enough to know everything.
4. If voting changed anything they would make it illegal.
5. I feel so miserable without you, its like almost like having you here.
Perhaps the most fun-to-say term on this list, onomatopoeia is defined as the formation of a word, as cuckoo, meow, honk, or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent. It comes from the Greek word onomatopoiía, which means “making of words.”
Alliteration is the commencement of two or more nearby words with the same letter or sound, as in the schoolyard staple “She sells seashells by the seashore.” Alliteration is often used in poetry and song writing, along with assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds in words with different consonants, and consonance, the repetition of consonants, often at the end of words.
1. Alice's aunt ate apples and acorns around August.
2. Becky's beagle barked and bayed, becoming bothersome for Billy.
3. Carrie's cat clawed at her couch, creating chaos.
4. Hanna's home has heat hopefully.
5. Peter's piglet pranced priggishly.
An allegory is a story in which the characters or developments symbolize real people or events. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is an example of an allegory; on the surface it’s about a group of animals that overthrow their human masters to establish a more egalitarian society only to watch it devolve into tyranny, but below the surface it’s about Russia’s Bolshevik revolution and the corrupting nature of power.
1. Pigs represent people in power.
2. Boxers represents the working class.
3. The dragon represents evil.
4. All animal are equal but a few are more equal than others.
5. The story of the Wizard of Oz - i.e. cowardice is embodies by the lion, thoughtless panic in the scarecrow...etc.
Perhaps the most widely misunderstood term on this list, ironyhas a broad range of meanings and applications. Its primary definition is “the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning,” sometimes called verbal irony. Responding “How nice!” to unpleasant news is an example of verbal irony. There is also situational irony, in which actions have an effect that is opposite from what was intended, so that the outcome is contrary to what was expected, and dramatic irony, which occurs when a situation is understood by the audience but not grasped by the characters in the play.
1. The name of Britain's biggest dog was "Tiny".
2. I saw fish drowning.
3. Never argue with a fool. People might not know the difference.
4. The butter is as soft as a marble piece.
5. I have been down so long, it looks up to me.