Figures of Speech

This week I had occasion to look up euphemism for my prison blog, Prison Uncensored. I thought it might be a good time to review the most important figures of speech. For more information, Google any one you’d like to know more about. This line up asks you to try each figure of speech.

Some figures of speech:


Repetition of an initial consonant sound.

  •  “Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed.”

(Bob Dylan, “Lay, Lady, Lay”)

  •   # “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

(Henry David Thoreau, Walden)

  •  “Guinness is good for you.”

(advertising slogan)


My alliteration__________________________________________________




The substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit.


  • # Pre-owned for used or second-hand; enhanced interrogation for torture;
  • wind for belch or fart; convenience fee for surcharge
  • “neutralize” for “kill”


My euphemism__________________________________________________




An extravagant statement; the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or heightened effect.


“I’d give my right arm for a piece of pizza”

“I could sleep for a year”

“This book weighs a ton.”


My hyperbole_________________________________________________



The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. A statement or situation where the meaning is contradicted by the appearance or presentation of the idea.


# “I’m aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it.”

(Sideshow Bob, The Simpsons)

* as soft as concrete

* as clear as mud

* as fun as cancer

* as pleasant as a root canal

  1. “as pleasant and relaxed as a coiled rattlesnake” (Kurt Vonnegut from Breakfast of Champions)


My irony__________________________________________________________




A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison


“a sea of troubles” or “All the world’s a stage” (Shakespeare)


# “The streets were a furnace, the sun an executioner.”

(Cynthia Ozick, “Rosa”)


# Lenny: Hey, maybe there is no cabin. Maybe it’s one of them metaphorical things.

Carl: Oh yeah, yeah. Like maybe the cabin is the place inside each of us, created by our goodwill and teamwork.

Lenny: Nah, they said there would be sandwiches.



My metaphor_________________________________________________



The formation or use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.


“It went zip when it moved and bop when it stopped,

And whirr when it stood still.

I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.”

(Tom Paxton, “The Marvelous Toy”)


# “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.”

(slogan of Alka Seltzer, U.S.)


It’s sort of whack, whir, wheeze, whine

Sputter, splat, squirt, scrape

Clink, clank, clunk, clatter

Crash, bang, beep, buzz

Ring, rip, roar, retch

Twang, toot, tinkle, thud

Pop, plop, plunk, pow

Snort, snuck, sniff, smack

Screech, splash, squish, squeak

Jingle, rattle, squeal, boing

Honk, hoot, hack, belch.”

(Todd Rundgren, “Onomatopoeia”)


My Onomatopoeia__________________________________________________



A figure of speech in which incongruous or contradictory terms appear side by side.


# “O brawling love! O loving hate! . . .

O heavy lightness! serious vanity!

Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!

Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!

Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!

This love feel I, that feel no love in this.”

(William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)


“a deafening silence” or “the little giant”


“The quiet was deafening.”


“He was clearly misunderstood.”


“They were alone together.”


My oxymoron___________________________________________________



A statement that appears to contradict itself.


“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”

(Joseph Heller, Catch-22)


# Chicken or the egg: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?


# Paradox of free will: If God knew how we will decide when he created us, how can there be free will?


My paradox_______________________________________________________



A figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities.


“Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered. There was no one there.”

(proverb quoted by Christopher Moltisanti, The Sopranos)


“Oreo: Milk’s favorite cookie.”

(slogan on a package of Oreo cookies)


Wisdom calls aloud in the street.


# The wind stood up and gave a shout.

He whistled on his fingers and

Kicked the withered leaves about

And thumped the branches with his hand

And said he’d kill and kill and kill,

And so he will and so he will.

(James Stephens, “The Wind”)


My personification______________________________________




A stated comparison (usually formed with “like” or “as”) between two fundamentally dissimilar things that have certain qualities in common.


“Life is like an onion: You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.”

(Carl Sandburg)


“Good coffee is like friendship: rich and warm and strong.”

(slogan of Pan-American Coffee Bureau)


O, my luve’s like A Red, Red Rose”


My simile________________________________________________




A figure of speech is which a part is used to represent the whole, the whole for a part, the specific for the general, the general for the specific, or the material for the thing made from it.


Brazil won the soccer match.


Give us this day our daily bread.


All hands on deck.


“The daily press, the immediate media, is superb at synecdoche, at giving us a small thing that stands for a much larger thing.”

(Bruce Jackson)


My synechdoche_____________________________________________




A figure of speech in which a writer or a speaker deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is.


“I have to have this operation. It isn’t very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain.”

(Holden Caulfield in The Catcher In The Rye, by J. D. Salinger)


It’s just a flesh wound.”

(Black Knight, after having both of his arms cut off, in Monty Python and the Holy Grail)


“I am just going outside and may be some time.”

(Captain Lawrence Oates, Antarctic explorer, before walking out into a blizzard to face certain death, 1912)



My understatement _______________________________________________



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