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Figures of Speech: Crowning Glory of English Language, Explained From Common Usage and From Poetry
A language is well recognized in Literature because of its various special features of grammar. Figures of speech in any language create a niche for a language and in this respect the English language occupies a special place in the world of Literature because of beautiful applications of figures of speech. Many languages use figures of speech, but English is unique because of its more modern use.
Figures of speech are mostly used by effective writers, skilled orators, talented poets and talented playwrights. We will see, in this article, how these talented genres use this technique to add luster and glory to the language.
But one thing is to be stressed about it, learning language lessons through exercises has a limited use and only an innate quality can give this talent. In any case, by reading different articles and listening to lectures, you can improve, rather polish your innate talents and present your writings in a more brilliant way.
With these few words of introduction, let me analyze figures of speech in different writings one after the other.
2. What is a figure of speech?
Every writer or poet will put his soul into his writings and such writings will thus be pure representation of his soul. His readers must be in tune with the same wavelength and understand the soul behind the creations. Words are not enough to do this work because words only represent the body and it needs a deeper technique to convey and understand the soul. Figures of speech will do this job; The words cannot be the same as they are needed to convey the meaning, but something beyond the meaning to convey the soul. English is very rich in this technique and there are many forms of figures of speech. In this article, we will see a few of them. It is by no means an exhaustive list and it is left to readers to read more prose and poetry to learn more and more figures of speech.
It will not be out of place to mention that the classical Tamil language is very rich in this technique and some examples from the Tamil language are also given.
3. Similes and metaphors:
The most fundamental figures of speech are simile and metaphor. There will be no writer or poet without using these two. A simile is the comparison of two things that use words like “so or as”, which have some aspect in common.
Poets always compare a woman to a moon (fresh and beautiful) and a man to a lion (Brave and beautiful) Sometimes women are compared to creepers and men to trees especially a teak wood tree. In other words, man is still as strong as teak wood, while the creeper hugs the tree for love. Another simile often used is, The man out of cruelty in mind spoils the life of a woman like a wreath is squeezed by a wild animal.
The imagination of poets has no limits. They are not satisfied to qualify the lover as a moon, but it is a flawless moon. For the moon there is only one day like a full moon, but for you dear every day is a full moon day (because your beauty never fades) so writes a poet.
Metaphor differs from simile in that it does not compare two things, but freezes the two into one.
“The Lion roared that he would get freedom” – describes a freedom fighter
Here are some examples of similes and metaphors.
“I wandered alone like a cloud…”
“I go on like the stars that shine
It sparkles in the Milky Way”
-The two form the poem “Narcissus” written by William Wordsworth.
If life is a journey, travel,
If life is a game, play it,
If life is a challenge, face it,
If life is a fight, win.
“A Himalayan blunders”, a phrase used by Gandhi.
4. Hyperbole and Litotes:
Hyperbole is the unique quality of Poets. In ordinary life, lying is an offense, but in poetry, lying is very desirable to attract the attention and admiration of readers. It is also exaggeration to a great extent. Even if it is a lie, it will describe the situation well and there is the greatness of the poet.
Some examples of Hyperbole:
The author wants to add some humor to this article and the next paragraph describing the use of hyperbole will serve the purpose.
In India, especially in Tamilnadu, people use hyperbole to please their bosses etc very freely. The following examples will explain this.
The moment a political leader receives some recognition, posters across the city will be plastered praising him.
“Long live our permanent leader,
Just show your finger, we will bring the Earth to your feet”
You are our breath, you are our food, you are our life, etc.
(In the next election, if the leader is defeated, the posters will also disappear, and fresh posters praising the winner will appear. After all “Nothing succeeds like success”.
Another field that receives more love and affection from the public is cinematography. Fans will congratulate the matinee idols on their birthdays as follows:
“You are the Sun, You give Him light. When you wake up, He rises, when you close your eyes, it will become dark”
The Earth spins because of you. The Lion learned to roar from your laughter, the flowers bloom because of your smile” and so on.
Litotes are the exact opposite of this, which is to degrade something by speaking negatively.
Example: “Okay, the picture is not bad” means that the picture was satisfactorily good.
The man is not stupid means the man was smart. 5 Euphemisms, Dysphemism and Oxymoron.
5. Euphemism is saying something unpleasant in a pleasant way.
“Oh! My boss is sleeping here!” that is, he died and was buried there.
“I’m going to the rest room” means I’m going to the toilet and so on
Dysphemism is the opposite of euphemism.
Example: Call a thrifty man as “avarotto”.
Call a freedom fighter a ‘terrorist’
A firm boss is branded as a “pig-headed fellow”.
An oxymoron combines two contradictory things to define a common function.
Father to son: “You’re a wise fool. You have a clever way of inviting trouble.”
“I do volunteer work out of compulsion”
The king was a merciful dictator.
“The man was obediently bold”
The UN sends its “peacekeeping force” to warring countries.
Personification is imagining lifeless things as having life.
“Oh, Death, why do you lay cruel hands on all great people!
Oh death, you will not have death one day”, so that others live – taken from a Tamil poem.
“Behold! His Pride and Vanity shall speak”
“Oh. Mahatma (Gandhi) Is it for this, do you have freedom?”
This is a direct conversation with the dead as if they are alive and standing before us.
Sometimes inanimate objects are assumed to have life and are addressed.
Oh India, is there anyone who will save you from this catastrophe?”
“Oh, Indian cinema, do you have a future”?
Antithesis is saying two totally contradictory things in one sentence to emphasize a particular point.
The best example of an antithesis is ‘; Man proposes, God disposes’ which emphasizes that nothing is in our hands.
To err is human, but to forgive is Divine.
Speech is silver but silence is golden.
“Not that I loved Caesar less, but I love Rome more”
Epigrams are almost proverbial sayings that correspond to the antithesis, an exciting surprise in the minds of the listeners.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
The child is the father of the man.
Poetry is nothing but a glorified lie.
Marriages are legalized prostitution.
Irony is an essential ingredient of poetry and drama. The irony of the circumstances increases the pathos in them and is a reflection of the talents of the writer or poet. It is a theme for which thousands of examples of poetry, prose, plays and films could be given. In fact, it would take a series of articles to cover this vast topic. However, I will limit myself to highlighting a few examples to highlight this figure of speech. (Examples given from own observations).
I).We have seen in many films, the child is separated from the father. The irony is that the father will help his son in many difficult circumstances without knowing that he is helping his son.
ii) The lovers are separated by cruel fate. When the lover meets his love after say, five years, she is none other than his stepmother, having married his father. The irony is added when he or she is shown to be blind.
iii) A student picks a fight with a lady. When he arrives at his exam room, he is shocked to notice that she is none other than his new teacher.
Readers are asked to read more poetry and prose and identify this figure of speech and enjoy the richness of the language.
PUN mentions a word that gives different meanings: Some people are great experts in this way of speaking. It takes a lot of wisdom to pun on a particular word.
A very famous example of this is “Mr… Conceived three times and delivered nothing” commenting on a British MP who said: “I conceive, conceive, conceive” but did not complete the statement.
A father, on a cloudy day, comments: “Neither the Sun is bright, nor my son is bright” to comment on the unfortunate performance of his son.
“We dye” for you”, a poster.
How long we live depends on the “liver”.
It involves a change of name, by virtue of duties done:
The bench (judges) awarded the death penalty.
The tribune (three member committee) resolved the offer.
The Crown (King) is pleased etc.
The faculty (Teachers) had a meeting
13. Climax and anti-climax:
Climax is a dramatic ending of a sentence on a positive note, and that with a negative note is “anti-climax”.
He is intelligent, hardworking, intelligent, studious and in fact he is “Intelligence personified”.
He is my Friend, Philosopher and Guide and in short, he is my God.
She is so beautiful. charming, gorgeous and none other than Venus who has come to Earth.
Here are some examples of Climax.
Examples of anti-climax are:
He is a man as rich as the God of wealth, he owns all the gold and money, and never gives even a single paisa to the poor.
He buys kilos of food, drinks and fruit, but he can’t eat even a piece only on the doctor’s advice (also an example of Irony)
He is a great soccer player, he represents the university team in dozens of games and he never scored a goal.
Water everywhere, not a drop to drink.
These are a few very simple examples of figure of speech reproduced mainly from personal observations and some, from known examples. This is only a tip of the iceberg (not a hyperbole) This is really a vast area of any language that needs deep study. But the habit with most students is to skip this chapter that normally comes at the end of grammar courses and seems to be vague to learn. This article can help create an orientation towards this aspect of learning. If readers are motivated to learn more about figures of speech, the purpose of this article is satisfied.
I wish the readers ALL the best.
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