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Figures of Speech

Aug 30, 2022
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Any deliberate departure from a literal statement or conventional use that emphasizes, clarifies, or embellishes written or spoken words can be considered a figure of speech. Figures of speech form an integral part of any language and are found in oral literatures, refined poetry and prose, as well as in ordinary speech. 

Epigram: 

The word epigram comes from the Greek word epigramma, which meaning “inscription” or “inscription.” Epigrams are often considered clever or witty statements. 

An epigram is a short, incisive remark that usually introduces antithetical ideas in order to startle and captivate the listener. Unlike antithesis, they have the ability to surprise and grab the attention of the reader/listener. 

Epigram is frequently utilized in poetry, where it appears as a brief satirical poem with a single theme that concludes with a clever or witty idea. During the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, poets such as Alexander Pope, John Donne, William Shakespeare, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge popularized epigram as a figure of speech. Epigrams, according to Jane Wilde, an Irish poet, were far superior to an argumentative speech. 

Examples: 

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  • “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.” 
  • “The child is the father of the man.” 
  • “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” 

Irony: 

Irony is a figure of speech in which seemingly conflicting statements or events reveal a reality that isn’t what it appears to be. In literature, there are different types of irony. The reader’s expectations and knowledge of the gap between what “should” happen and what “really” happens in a literary work determine the effectiveness of irony as a literary device. This can take the shape of an unexpected event’s outcome, a character’s unexpected action, or something discordant uttered. 

Mark Antony’s speech after Caesar’s demise in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar can be seen as an instance that has made the best use of irony in English literature. 

Examples: 

  • “O my love, my wife! Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty.” 
  • “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” 
  • “Whosever room this is should be ashamed! Donald or Robert or Willie or—Huh? You say it’s mine? Oh, dear, I knew it looked familiar!” 

Pun: 

A pun, commonly known as a “play on words,” is a figure of speech that has words that sound similar or identical yet have diverse meanings. Puns are usually intended to be funny, but in literary works, they can sometimes serve a serious purpose. 

To put it simply, a pun is when a word is used in such a manner that it can be used in multiple ways, with the goal of creating a hilarious impact. 

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Examples: 

  • “An ambassador is an honest man who lies abroad for the good of his country.” 
  • “Is life worth living? -It depends on the liver.” 
  • “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” 

Synecdoche: 

The figure of speech that uses a part of something is used to designate the whole, or vice versa rhetorically is known as synecdoche. It comes from the Greek term synekdoche, which means “simultaneous meaning.” Synecdoche can also be used in reverse with the greater total standing in for a smaller part of something. It allows writers to express a word or idea diversely by utilizing a part of it and provides for a wide range of expressions, giving the reader something to think about. 

Synecdoche is a subset of metonymy.  Synecdoche and metonymy are both considered as forms of metaphors since they include the replacement of one term for another, which necessitates a conceptual link. When a human element is substituted for a non-human institution, such as when alluding to a weapon falling into “the wrong hands,” synecdoche might be defined as a sort of personification. The human element of “hands” stands for an opposing group in this situation. 

Examples: 

  • Give us this day our daily bread (i.e., food). 
  • Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. 
  • Brazil (i.e., the Brazil football team) defeated Portugal 3-0 in yesterday’s football match. 

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