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Video:Common Figures of Speech

with Heather Kamins

Figures of speech are used in everyday conversation and renowned literature. Watch this About.com education video to learn how to recognize common figures of speech.See Transcript

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Transcript:Common Figures of Speech

Hi, I'm Heather Kamins for About.com, and today, I'm here to talk to you about common figures of speech.

Metaphors and Similes

There are many different figures of speech, but here are some of the most common types. Simile and metaphor are both used to compare something to something else. Simile does that in a direct way by using 'like' or 'as'  as part of the phrase, whereas metaphor is more indirect.

So, for example, Carl Sandburg used a simile when he said, "Life is like an onion: you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep." If had wanted to say that as a metaphor, he could have simply said, life IS an onion.

Hyperbole and Understatement

Other common figures of speech include hyperbole - which exaggerates the thing you're talking about - and understatement, which downplays it. So for example, Ralph Waldo Emerson used hyperbole when talking about "'the shot heard round the world." It wasn't heard literally around the world, but the hyperbole helped express the importance of it.

An example of an understatement is Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, when he says, "I have to have this operation. It isn't very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain."

Understatement is one form of irony, where the words that you're using, the literal meaning, is the opposite of the literal meaning that you're trying to convey. Another example of irony would be, if it's a stormy day out, to say oh, what wonderful weather we're having.

Figures of Speech Using Sound

Some figures of speech have to do with the sounds that their words make. For example, alliteration uses a repeated initial consonant for a string of words. So: the lovely lady was laughing, for example, uses three l words.

Assonance refers to words that share vowel sounds. So if I say the blue moon was luminous on Tuesday, that has four different words that have that oooh sound in them.

Another example is onomatopoeia, where the word itself has the same sound as the thing it's describing. So for example, the word meow is the sound the cat makes, and that's what the word actually sounds like. Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.

Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.


 

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