Monday, 14 November 2011

Figures of Speech

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            In essay writing, you need to show off your language skills. And I don’t mean your Spanish vocabulary or your ability to punctuate properly, I mean your use of the English language in a creative way. When writing college admittance essays, literary essays, or any essay at all, the way you speak is often just as important as how you speak. (Or in this case, write).

            In the real world, people do not speak plainly. We use innuendos, puns, metaphors, and exaggeration to get our point across. Very seldom is what we’re saying actually what we mean. As a teacher, I’ve often called my students a bunch of monkeys. Does that literally mean that they live in trees, seek bananas, and pick nits out of each others’ hair? No, it does not. (At least I hope not). It means that they sometimes drive me crazy. It’s called a metaphor. Get it?

            I’ll break it down. First we’ll tackle metaphors and similes. These are both types of figurative language where two things are compared. Saying, ‘love is like a bird’ is a simile. It is saying that love makes you feel open, peaceful, free, wild, and so on. Saying that the ‘world is a circus’ implies that life/society is adventurous, wild, creative, and full of animals. Using these two figures of speech in your essays will help you convey multiple meanings with just a few words.

            Another example of figurative language is hyperbole. Hyperbole is a fancy word for exaggeration. Extreme exaggeration. When someone says they are hungry enough to eat a horse, I don’t think they actually are hungry enough to find a horse in a nearby field, chop it in two, and ingest it. But the point they’re making is that they’re pretty darn hungry and they need food right away. Using hyperbole in your essay, especially in a satirical or persuasive essay could have a large impact on the reader.

            Understanding what figurative language is and using it are two different things. It will take practice. One way to start is to write down the things that people say in your day-to-day life. You can write down a list of expressions that you use as well. At the end of the day, look at your list. How many of the sentences actually make sense if you read them plainly? How many are actually hinting at other meanings?

            You might be surprised.

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