A simile is a figure of speech in which two things, unlike in every way except one, are compared. A word such as 'like' or 'as' is generally used to draw attention to the comparison:
THE OLD MEN ADMIRING THEMSELVES IN WATER By WB Yeats
I heard the old, old men say, ‘Everything alters, And one by one we drop away.’ They had hands like claws, and their knees Were twisted like the old thorn-trees By the waters. I heard the old, old men say, ‘All that’s beautiful drifts away Like the waters.’
To see how effective similes can be in describing things, look at the illustration of the poem Fireworks by James Reeves:
A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing is identified totally with another. It is not 'as' or 'like' the thing to which it is compared; the object becomes the thing to which it is compared. The object takes on the attributes or qualities of the thing that it is compared to:
FOG By Carl Sandburg
The fog comes on little cat feet.
It sits looking over harbour and city on silent haunches and then moves on.
Unlike a simile, no word of comparison is used: there is a direct transfer of the attribute of one thing to that with which it is being compared:
TALK By DH Lawrence
I wish people, when you sit near them, wouldn’t think it necessary to make conversation and send thin draughts of words blowing down your neck and your ears and giving you a cold in your inside.
Analyzing a metaphor:
"You are my rock" = this metaphor compares the support that someone gives to a rock. A rock is hard to move, implying that the friend is a solid, dependable supporter who is unmoved by circumstances.
"He's a diamond in the rough" = this metaphor compares a boy to a rough diamond. When diamonds are mined, they are unimpressive to look at. Only once a diamond has been cut and polished do you see its worth. This metaphor implies that while the boy is unsophisticated, he has the potential to be great.
To see how effective metaphors can be in describing things, look at the illustration of the poem Your Smile by Alan Durant:
The mixed metaphor occurs when two or more metaphors clash with each other:
"A leopard can't change his stripes." Al Gore
"He clams up tighter than a drum." Alex in 'Walker, Texas Ranger'
"I was the mother hen to all these little ducks." Contestant on 'Survivor'
"I've been up and down so many times that I feel as if I'm in a revolving door." Cher
"Take the ball by the horns and run with it." Earl in 'My Name is Earl'
"You must have ears like an eagle." Sam Gerard in 'The Fugitive'
To personify something is to give human characteristics to it. In other words, a non-human thing is referred to in human terms:
WHISPERING LEAVES By Julie O’Callaghan
I am wondering what it is the leaves are whispering to me. Which language they speak. It doesn’t seem funny but it might be. It takes years getting leaf ears only there aren’t many quiet days to sit out and learn leaf talk. Leaves, I’m listening.
Here are some examples from popular culture:
"Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered. There was no one there." (Proverb quoted by Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos)
"The only monster here is the gambling monster that has enslaved your mother! I call him Gamblor, and it's time to snatch your mother from his neon claws!" (Homer Simpson in The Simpsons)
To see how you can include personification in your descriptions, look at the poem December by Mary Daunt:
Personification applies to non-living objects. When we give human characteristics or divine qualities to living creatures (e.g. animals), we call it anthropomorphism:
ANIMAL RIGHTS By Lindsay MacRae
Our cat won’t use the cat-flap any more. He’s started to fight for his Animal Rights and insists that he uses the door.
Hyperbole (pronounced: high-per-ba-lee) is deliberate over-exaggeration. It is not meant to be taken literally, but is used to create humor or to emphasize a point:
SICK By Shel Silverstein
"I cannot go to school today," Said little Peggy Ann McKay. "I have the measles and the mumps, A gash, a rash and purple bumps. My mouth is wet, my throat is dry, I'm going blind in my right eye. My tonsils are as big as rocks, I've counted sixteen chicken pox And there's one more--that's seventeen, And don't you think my face looks green? My leg is cut--my eyes are blue-- It might be instamatic flu. I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke, I'm sure that my left leg is broke-- My hip hurts when I move my chin, My belly button's caving in, My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained, My 'pendix pains each time it rains. My nose is cold, my toes are numb. I have a sliver in my thumb. My neck is stiff, my voice is weak, I hardly whisper when I speak. My tongue is filling up my mouth, I think my hair is falling out. My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight, My temperature is one-o-eight. My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear, There is a hole inside my ear. I have a hangnail, and my heart is--what? What's that? What's that you say? You say today is. . .Saturday? G'bye, I'm going out to play!"
Understatement is the deliberate playing down of something, usually for comic effect:
Here are some examples from popular culture:
"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)
"Well, that's cast rather a gloom over the evening, hasn't it?" (Dinner guest, following a visit from the Grim Reaper, in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life)
Euphemism is also a form of understatement. It is used when you have to talk about something unpleasant or uncomfortable. A euphemism provides a more sensitive and tactful manner to express those thoughts.
[Mr. Prince]: We'll see you when you get back from image enhancement camp.
[Martin Prince]: Spare me your euphemisms! It's fat camp, for Daddy's chubby little secret!
Alliteration is the repeated use of a sound (a consonant) at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. This is illustrated by the following poem about a Singsingetjie (the Dutch name for a cicada or garden cricket):
SINGSINGETJIE By Arthur Vine Hall
Sing, Singsingetjie, sing, sing, sing, Sing the song of the sun! On high where the blue and the pine-tops meet; Sing, sing, sing, in the fragrant heat; While the golden hammers of noontide beat On shimmering veld and dusty street - Sing, Singsingetjie, sing.
Sing, Singsingetjie, sing, sing, sing, Sing the song of the sun! After the long years underground, With the cold damp darkness all around, Sing the glory of sunlight found; Sing till the krantzes and kloofs resound - Sing, Singsingetjie, sing.
Sing, Singsingetjie, sing, sing, sing, Sing the song of the sun! Sing as under the Grecian blue You sand when the harp-string snapped, and few Of all who acclaimed the harper knew The missing notes were supplied by you - Sing, Sinsingetjie, sing!
Sing, Singsingetjie, sing, sing, sing, Sing the song of the sun! Many harps have a broken string; The note that is lost is the note you bring - The note of the joy for the common thing; The sun in the sky, the bird on the wing - Sing, Singsingetjie, sing!
A good example of the use of alliteration in the media comes from the English newspaper, The Sun, following England's 0-0 draw against Algeria in the 2010 Fifa World Cup:
"Drab, dreary, depressing, disjointed, and at times desperate and, overall, dull as ditchwater. Thanks England. No wonder you were booed off the pitch by your own fans last night."
Assonance is the rhyming of vowel sounds within two or more words that are situated close to each other.
SOLDIER FREDDY By Spike Milligan
Soldier Freddy was never ready, But! Soldier Neddy, unlike freddy Was always ready and steady,
That's why, When Soldier Neddy Is-outside-Buckingham-Palace-on-guard-in-the-pouring- wind-and-rain- being-steady-and-ready, Freddy- is home in beddy.
Identify the onomatopoeic words in the following poem:
JAZZ FANTASIA By Carl Sandburg
Drum on your drums, batter on your banjoes, sob on the long cool winding saxophones. Go to it, O jazzmen.
Sling your knuckles on the bottoms of the happy tin pans, let your trombones ooze, and go husha- husha-hush with the slippery sandpaper.
Moan like an autumn wind high in the lonesome treetops, moan soft like you wanted somebody terrible, cry like a racing car slipping away from a motorcycle cop, bang-bang! you jazzmen, bang altogether drums, traps, banjoes, horns, tin cans - make two people fight on the top of a stairway and scratch each other's eyes in a cinch tumbling down the stairs.
Can the rough stuff ... now a Mississippi steamboat pushes up the night river with a hoo-hoo-hoo-oo ... and the green lanterns calling to the high soft stars ... a red moon rides on the humps of the low river hills ... go to it, O jazzmen.
Most rhyme schemes are described using letters that correspond to sets of rhymes, so if the 1st, 2nd and 4th lines of a quatrain rhyme with each other and the 3rd line does not rhyme, the quatrain is said to have an a-a-b-a rhyme scheme.
Poems that don't have a fixed rhyme scheme or meter (beats per line) are called "free verse".
At midnight in the alley A Tom-cat comes to wail, And he chants the hate of a million years As he swings his snaky tail.
Malevolent, bony, brindled, Tiger and devil and bard, His eyes are coals from the middle of Hell And his heart is black and hard.
He twists and crouches and capers And bares his curved sharp claws, And he sings to the stars of the jungle nights, Ere cities were, or laws.
Beast from a world primeval, He and his leaping clan, When the blotched red moon leers over the roofs Give voice to the scorn of man.
He will lie on a rug to-morrow And lick his silky fur, And veil the brute in his yellow eyes And play he's tame and purr.
But at midnight in the alley He will crouch again and wail, And beat the time for his demon's song With the swing of his demon's tail.
Now compare the rhyme scheme of The Tom-cat to that of The Cat and the Moon:
THE CAT AND THE MOON By WB Yeats
The cat went here and there And the moon spun round like a top, And the nearest kin of the moon, The creeping cat, looked up. Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon, For, wander and wail as he would, The pure cold light in the sky Troubled his animal blood. Minnaloushe runs in the grass Lifting his delicate feet. Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance? When two close kindred meet, What better than call a dance? Maybe the moon may learn, Tired of that courtly fashion, A new dance turn. Minnaloushe creeps through the grass From moonlit place to place, The sacred moon overhead Has taken a new phase. Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils Will pass from change to change, And that from round to crescent, From crescent to round they range? Minnaloushe creeps through the grass Alone, important and wise, And lifts to the changing moon His changing eyes.