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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 the literature by virtue of its various peculiarities of grammar. Figures of speech in any language create a niche for a language and in this regard, the English language holds a special place in the world of literature due to beautiful applications of figures of speech. Several languages use figures of speech, but English is unique because of its most modern use.
Figures of speech are mostly used by effective writers, skillful speakers, talented poets, and gifted playwrights. We will see, in this article, how these talented genres use this technique to give luster and glory to the language.
But one thing must be emphasized, learning language lessons through exercises has limited usefulness and only an innate quality can give this talent. However, by reading various articles and listening to lectures, one can improve himself, rather polish his innate talents and present his writings in a more scintillating manner.
With these few introductory words, allow me to analyze the figures of speech in various writings one by one.
2. What is a figure of speech?
Any writer or poet will put his soul in his writings and these writings will thus be a pure representation of his soul. Its readers must be on the same wavelength and realize the soul behind the creations. Mere words will not suffice to do this work because words will only represent the body and it takes a deeper technique to convey and understand the soul. Figures of speech will do this job; The words may not be the same ones that are needed to convey meaning, but something beyond meaning to convey soul. English is very rich in this technique and there are several forms of figures of speech. In this article, we will see some of them. This is by no means an exhaustive list and it is up 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. Comparisons and metaphors:
The most basic 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 using the words like “so or like”, which have one aspect in common.
Poets always compare woman to a moon (cool and beautiful) and man to a lion (brave and beautiful). Sometimes women are compared to climbing plants and man to trees, especially a teakwood tree. In other words, man is still strong like teak wood, while the vine embraces the tree in love. Another simile often used is, Man by cruelty of mind spoils a woman’s life like a garland is squeezed by a wild animal.
The imagination of poets has no limits. They don’t just describe the lover as the moon, but she is a flawless moon. For the moon there is only one full moon day, but for you my darling every day is a full moon day (because your beauty never fades) so writes a poet.
Metaphor differs from comparison in that it does not compare two things but freezes them into one.
“The Lion roared that he would attain freedom” – describing a freedom fighter
Here are some examples of similes and metaphors.
“I was walking lonely like a cloud…”
“Keep on like the stars shining
And sparkle in the Milky Way”
-The two form the poem “Daffodils” written by William Wordsworth.
If life is a journey, take it
If life is a game, play it,
If life is a challenge, face it,
If life is a fight, win it.
“A Himalayan blunder”, an expression used by Gandhi.
4. Hyperbole and Litotes:
Hyperbole is the unique quality of poets. In ordinary life, lying is a crime, but in poetry, lying is much sought after to attract the attention and admiration of readers. It is also exaggerated to a large extent. Although it is a lie, it will describe the situation well and therein lies the greatness of the poet.
Some examples of hyperbole:
The author wishes to add some humor to this article and the following paragraph describing the use of hyperbole will serve the purpose.
In India, especially in Tamilnadu, people use hyperbole very freely to please their bosses etc. The following examples will explain it.
The moment a political leader gets some recognition, wall posters all over town will be put up praising him.
“Long live our permanent leader,
Just show your little finger, we’ll put the earth at 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 new posters praising the winner will appear. After all, “Nothing succeeds like success”.
Another area that receives more love and affection from the public is cinema. Fans will congratulate the matinee idols on their birth days as follows:
“You are the sun, you give it light. When you wake up it rises, when you close your eyes it will become dark”
The Earth rotates because of you. Leo learned to roar because of your laughter, flowers bloom because of your smile” and so on.
Understatement is the opposite, which is to degrade something by speaking in a negative way.
For example: “Okay, the image is not bad” means that the image was satisfactory.
The man is not stupid means the man was smart. 5 Euphemisms, Dysphemism and Oxymoron.
5. Understatement tells an unpleasant thing in a pleasant way.
“Oh! My boss is sleeping over there!” meaning he died and was buried there.
“I’m going to the toilet” means I’m going to the toilet, etc.
Dysphemism is the opposite of understatement.
For example: Call a thrifty man a “miser.”
Calling a freedom fighter a “terrorist”
A business owner is described as a “pig-headed guy”.
Oxymoron combines two contradictory things to define a common characteristic.
From father to son: “You are a wise fool. You have a clever way of inviting trouble.”
“I do voluntary work by constraint”
The king was a merciful dictator.
“The guy was obediently daring”
The UN sends its “peace force” to countries at war.
Personification is imagining lifeless things as having life.
“Oh, Death, why do you lay your cruel hands on all the grown-ups!
Oh death, you will not die one day”, for others to live – from a Tamil poem.
“Behold! His pride and vanity shall speak”
“Oh. Mahatma (Gandhi) Is that why you gave us freedom?”
It is a direct conversation with the dead as if they were alive and standing before us.
Sometimes lifeless objects are assumed to have life and they are addressed.
Oh India, is there anyone to save you from this disaster?”
“Oh, Indian cinema, do you have a future”?
Antithesis is when you say two completely contradictory things in one sentence to emphasize a particular point.
The best example of antithesis is ‘; Man proposes, God disposes’ which highlights that nothing is in our hands.
To err is human but to forgive is divine.
Speech is silver, but silence is golden.
“It’s not that I loved Caesar less, but I love Rome more”
Epigrams are almost proverbial sayings corresponding to antitheses, exciting surprise in the minds of listeners.
Fools rush where angels are afraid to tread.
The child is the father of the man.
Poetry is but a glorified lie.
Marriages are legalized prostitution.
Irony is an essential ingredient of poetry and drama. The irony of the circumstances reinforces the pathos in them and the reflection of the talents of the writer or poet. It is a subject for which thousands of examples from poetry, prose, plays and films could be given. In fact, it takes a series of articles to cover this vast topic. However, allow me to limit myself to highlighting a few examples to highlight this figure of speech. (Examples taken from his own observations).
I). We have seen it in several films, the child is separated from the father. The irony is that the father will help his child in many difficult circumstances without knowing that he is helping his own child.
ii) The lovers are separated by a cruel fate. When the lover meets his sweetheart after say five years, she is none other than his stepmother, having married his father. The irony is added when he is shown as blind.
iii) A student picks up a quarrel with a lady. When he reaches his exam room, he is shocked to find that she is none other than his new teacher.
Readers are urged to read more poetry and prose and identify this figure of speech and appreciate the richness of the language.
PUN cites a word giving different meanings: Some people are great experts in this way of speaking. It takes a lot of wisdom to wedge a particular word.
A very famous example of this is “Mr…designed three times and delivered nothing” commenting on a British MP who said “I design, I design, I design” 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 his son’s dismal performance.
“We ‘dye’ for you”, a billboard.
How long do we live depends on the ‘liver’.
It involves a change of name, by virtue of the functions exercised:
The bench (judges) pronounced the death sentence.
The tribune (three-member committee) settled the offer.
The Crown (King) is happy etc.
The faculty (Teachers) had a meeting
13. Climax and anti-climax:
Climax is a dramatic ending to a sentence in a positive note, and one with a negative note is “anti-climax”.
He is smart, 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, beautiful and none other than Venus who came to Earth.
These are some examples of Climax.
Examples of anti-climaxes are:
He is such a rich man like God of Wealth, owns all the gold and silver, and never gives even a single paisa to the poor.
He buys pounds of food, drink and fruit but cannot eat even a single piece on doctor’s advice (also an example of irony)
He is a great football player, he has represented the university team in dozens of games and has never scored a goal.
Water everywhere, not a drop to drink.
These are a few very simple examples of figure of speech reproduced mostly from personal observation and some from known examples. This is just a tip of the iceberg (not hyperbole) It is indeed a vast area of any language that requires in-depth study. But the habit with most students is to skip that chapter which normally comes at the end of grammar lessons and seems vague to learn. This article can help create a focus on 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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