Posted by: suekenney | April 19, 2014

Susan’s Editorial Dictionary: F is for Fallen off the Face of the Earth

Oh, wait a minute – that’s not an editorial or grammatical phrase, is it?  But that’s what I sometimes think has happened to me in terms of the blogging world.  I started a new part-time job back in October, and that, along with my other two part-time jobs, and an attempt at trying to reorganize my kitchen, and the holidays in the middle of all that, has kept me fairly busy since then.   Still working on that kitchen, but I’m also itching to get back at this.Red_rose

So let me try this again:  F is for Figure of Speech, also called Figurative Language.  A figure of speech is a word or phrase used in a nonliteral sense to achieve special meaning or effect.  The two most familiar ones are probably the simile (a comparison of two unlike things using “like” or “as”) and the metaphor (also a comparison of two unlike things but implicit rather than stated, and not using “like” or “as”).  “My love is like a red, red rose” (poem/song by Robert Burns) is an example of a simile, and “The moon’s the north wind’s cooky” (poem by Vachel Lindsay) is an example of a metaphor (and one of my favorite metaphors, by the way).

There are plenty of other figures of speech, some used primarily in poetry, others used in both prose and poetry.  Apostrophe is directly addressing someone or something that is not physically present or not physically alive.  “O Death, where is thy sting?”  (I Corinthians 15:55)  Personification is giving human qualities to inanimate objects or nonhuman beings.  (Think Wind in the Willows or any of the books by Thornton W. Burgess.)  Hyperbole is exaggeration.  “Well now, one winter it was so cold that all the geese flew backward and all the fish moved south and even the snow turned blue.”  (from a legend of Paul Bunyan)  Oxymoron is using contradiction in a way that makes sense.  “Cowards die many times before their deaths.”  (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar)Mother_West_Wind_Where_Stories_frontispiece_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_17250

These, and many more, make our language so much more interesting and colorful.  Nor do you have to know exactly what they are in order to enjoy their effects.  Do you need to know the inner workings of a TV set to enjoy the latest episode of NCIS or Dancing with the Stars?  Not at all.  But if you work with words a lot, figurative language is a marvelous tool, and merits more exacting study.



  1. Nice to see you back, Sue!

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