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Figurative Language/Expressions

  • Figures of speech aim at structuring an argument for the purpose of moving emotions of the audience.
  • Figures of speech as an art of literary composition derive their creativity from the following strategies:
  1. Figures of Contrast
    1. Anti-thesis: This is a juxtaposition of two opposite expressions with the aim of making them appear more striking. For example:
      1. Her joy made their sorrow worse.
      2. To err is human, to forgive, divine.
    2. Oxymoron: In the oxymoron, two sharply contradictory words are placed side by side. For example:
      1. Obi let out a painful laugh
      2. Bitter sweet
      3. Cruel kindness
      4. Youngest old man
      5. Wisest fool
    3. Paradox: This is a statement that sounds absurd and false at the first thought but which proves to be true on a second and more reflective consideration. Indeed, the truth of a paradox is proved by the apparent contradiction. For example:
      1. Cowards die many times before their death (Julius Caesar – Shakespeare)
      2. He who has not, that which he has will be taken away from him (The Holy Bible)
  2. Figures of Association
    1. Allusion: An allusion is an expression that refers to a well-known event or person. There could be biblical allusions, when notable figures and events in the bible are referred to. For example:
      1. This is the shakespeare of Nigerian literature
      2. A Daniel has come to judgment
      3. He is the prodigal son of the family
    2. Antonomasia: This is the use of the name of a famous personality (true or fictional) to typify a class or person. For example:
      1. Even among the weightlifters, he emerged as Hercules
      2. Those professors are the Plato’s and Aristotle’s of our time
    3. Metonymy: This is a change of name in which a thing is called, not by its own name, but by the name of some accompaniment which suggests it. For example:
      1. The pen (the press/the writer) is mightier than the sword (the soldiers)
      2. The town (general public) and gown (academia) will merge
    4. Synecdoche: This uses the part for the whole and sometimes the whole for the part. For example:
      1. “All hands on deck,” Nigeria drew the test match with Ghana (Nigeria and Ghana teams)
      2. Brave hearts (people with brave hearts) should enlist in the military
    5. Sarcasm: This enables the writer to say what he means in a way calculated to wound by ridicule, disapproval, and contempt. It is not to be confused with irony, which is essentially different. For example:
      1. The difference between the political party in the office and the opposition is that the former now has the power to implement its disastrous policies.
    6. Assonance: Assonance is sometimes loosely used to refer to such sound effects as alliteration and rhyme. This involves the repetition of same vowel sounds in consecutive words. For example:
      1. There is assonance on the sound /ei/ in /breik/ and /grei/
        1. Break, break, break
        2. On the cold grey stones
    7. Onomatopoeia: Onomatopoeia is the use of words whose sounds suggest their meaning or this denotes the formation of words in imitation of natural sounds or the sounds associated with the thing concerned, and the use of such words. For example:
      1. Blood oozed from the wound
      2. The crown hooted and jeered at the speaker
      3. The wrestler hit the opponent wham on the cheek
    8. Pun: This is a play on the meaning of words that have identical sounds or spellings but which have different meanings. Thus, a pun creates ambiguity. For example:
      1. He passes for a man of letters without knowing a single letter
      2. Grave misdeeds push offenders into the grave early
    9. Rhyme: This is the similarity of sounds in the final syllables of poetic lines. For example:
      1. The fire has gone out
        The last flicker gone
        Nothing but aching gout