• Notes & Activities
  • Vocabulary

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Notes & Activities:

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GRADE 8:

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Figurative language is different to literal language.  With literal language, the words mean exactly what they say.  With figurative language, however, the words take on an entirely new meaning:

     HOW CAN I?
     By Brian Moses

     How can I wind up my brother
     when I haven’t got the key?

     How can I turn on my charm
     when I can’t even find the switch?

     How can I snap at my mother
     when I’m not a crocodile?

     How can I stir up my sister
     when I’m not even holding a spoon?

     How can I pick up my feet
     and not fall to the ground on my knees?

     How can I stretch my legs
     when they’re long enough already?

     Parents! – They ask the impossible!

You'd be surprised at how often you use figures of speech, especially similes and metaphors (guys, think of those cheesy pick-up lines), so they may not be as foreign to you as you might suppose.

         

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Activity 1:



  • Get into groups of four and come with your own list of pick-up lines using similes.

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We use figures of speech to paint beautiful picture with words:

     WHAT IS THE SUN?
     By Wes Magee

     the Sun is an orange dinghy
          sailing across a calm sea

     it is a gold coin
          dropped down a drain in heaven

     the Sun is a yellow beach ball
          kicked high into the summer sky

     it is a red thumb-print
          on a sheet of pale blue paper

     the Sun is a milk bottle’s golden top
          floating in a puddle.

We also use figures of speech to help us express the intensity of our feelings.  Take anger for example:

  • I'm as angry as a snake
  • My blood is boiling
  • I'm spitting mad
  • I'm about to explode



None of these can be taken literally but figurative language really gives us a clear sense of just how angry the person is!

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Activity 2:



Add some color (figuratively speaking) to the following:

  • I'm so hungry
  • I'm so cold
  • I'm so bored
  • I love you
  • I hate you

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Figures of Speech can be classified as:

Comparisons:

  • Similes
  • Metaphors
  • Personification
  • Anthropomorphism


Metaphors & Similes

Exaggerations and Understatements:

  • Hyperbole
  • Understatement
  • Euphemism

Contradictions:

  • Irony
  • Satire

Figurative Expressions:

  • Puns
  • Idioms

It is important that you familiarize yourself with them and are able to identify and explain them.


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Comparisons:

Similes:

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.’

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Activity 3:



Create similes for the following things:

  • English lessons
  • Your best friend
  • Your worst enemy
  • Rugby
  • Chocolate cake

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To see how effective similes can be in describing things, look at the illustration of the poem Fireworks by James Reeves:


Fireworks


Metaphors:

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.


Megamind

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Activity 4:



Explain the following metaphors:

  • Things are going smoothly
  • Let me drink in this sight
  • I am frozen with fear

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To see how effective metaphors can be in describing things, look at the illustration of the poem Your Smile by Alan Durant:


Your Smile


Mixed Metaphors:

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'


Personification:

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:


December


Anthropomorphism:

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.

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Activity 5:



Write two short poems (6 lines each) about:

  • Your favorite childhood toy (using personification)
  • Your favorite pet (using anthropomorphism)

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This poem demonstrates anthropomorphism:


Angie

One of the best examples of anthropomorphism in popular culture is Mickey Mouse.



Is Pluto also an example of anthropomorphism?  Why / why not?

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Exaggeration / Understatement:

Hyperbole:

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:

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:

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! 

("Kamp Krusty," The Simpsons, 1992)

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Activity 6:



Think of euphemisms to soften the following statements:

  • He's fat
  • She's lazy
  • You failed
  • They're dead
  • You look sick
  • Stop stressing

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GRADE 9:

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Contradiction:

Irony:

Irony is defined as: "a mockingly humorous use of words in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is actually said".

There are four kinds of irony. 

The first kind of irony is when you say one thing but mean another:

  • "That's just great!" ... If this is said when you've just spilled something down your shirt, then the word 'great' would have been used ironically.



The second kind of irony is 'dramatic irony' and occurs when the audience or reader knows something that the speaker or character does not know. 

  • "Honest Iago" ... In Othello, We know that Iago is an vindictive, lying villain but Othello doesn't. He thinks Iago is honest!

The third kind of irony is 'irony of fate' and occurs when someone deliberately tries to achieve one thing but the opposite happens:

  • Example:



  • Example:

     THE TINY ANT
     By Spike Milligan

     Said a tiny Ant
     to the Elephant
     ‘mind how you tread in this clearing!’

     But alas! Cruel fate!
     She was crushed by the weight
     of an elephant, hard of hearing.

The fourth kind of irony is 'sarcasm'.  The dictionary defines sarcasm as: "harsh or bitter words intended to hurt or insult, especially in an exaggerated or ironical way."

  • "You're a real genius!" ... If this is said when someone has just made a mistake, then the word 'genius' is used sarcastically and is intended to make the person feel stupid.


Sarcasm

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Activity 7:



Discuss the irony of the following questions:

  • Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby" when babies wake up every two hours?
  • If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a "hearing"?
  • Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets made at you, but when you take him for a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?



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Satire:

Redirect to Satire Notes


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Figurative Expressions:

Puns:

A pun is a clever use of words to create a double meaning.  A pun contains at least one word that has two or more meanings or associations:

     LETTUCE MARRY
     Author Unknown

     Do you carrot all for me?
     My heart beets for you,
     With your turnip nose
     And your radish face.
     You are a peach.
     It we cantaloupe
     Lettuce marry;
     Weed make a swell pear.

  • To write with a broken pencil is pointless.
  • A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two-tired.
  • Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat minor.
  • If you don't pay your exorcist you get repossessed.
  • Math teachers have lots of problems.

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Activity 8:



  • Together, identify the words that have double meanings in the examples above and explain what two meanings / associations each have.

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Idioms:

Idioms are commonly used figurative expressions. 

Idioms are figurative, in other words, the intended meaning (figurative) is entirely different from the literal meaning:

     MY DAD IS AMAZING!
     By Ian Souter 

     My dad’s amazing for he can:

     make mountains out of molehills,
     teach Granny to suck eggs,
     make Mum’s blood boil
     and then drive her up the wall. 

     My dad’s amazing for he also:

     walks around with his head in the clouds,
     has my sister eating out of his hand,
     says he’s got eyes in the back of his head
     and can read me like a book.

     But,
     the most amazing thing of all is:

     when he’s caught someone red-handed,
     first he jumps down their throat
     and then he bites their head off!

Idioms are widely understood in the English speaking world (there are about 25,000 idioms) and are often used as a way of summarizing a situation or giving advise.

Learn the following idioms (as per your grade):

 

Idioms

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Activity 9:



  • Identify the idioms referenced in the following cartoons.
  • What does each idiom mean?





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SOUND DEVICES:

Alliteration:

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."

Ouch!

Assonance:

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.

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Activity 10:



Read through the following poem and identify instances of assonance:


The Yarn of the Nancy Bell

Now write your own poems using alliteration and assonance, as per the instructions:

  • Write a 10-word poem where every word is alliterated.  (Note: Once you're alliterated a letter, you can go on to another letter.)
  • Write a 10-word poem where at least 6 of the 10 words contain assonance.

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Onomatopoeia:

Onomatopoeia is the use of words to recreate the sounds they describe:

  • Sizzle
  • Squelch
  • Woof

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Activity 11:



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.

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Rhythm:

Rhythm is the musical quality of poetry.  It is created in three ways:

Through rhyming:

  • End Rhyme: A rhyme that comes at the end of a line of verse. 
  • Most rhyming poetry uses end rhyme.
  • Internal Rhyme: A rhyme between two or more words within a line of verse

Through punctuation:

  • When punctuation is used at the end of a line, we say that the line is end-stopped. 
  • When a sentence runs onto the next line without a break, we call it enjambment. 
  • Enjambment creates a sense of suspense or excitement and gives added emphasis to the word at the end of the line.

Through repetition:

  • Alliteration and Assonance:  The repetition of sounds in a poem.
  • Refrain:  The repetition of phrases in a poem.
  • A slow rhythm creates a somber mood in the poem, while a quicker-paced rhythm creates a happier, more exciting mood in the poem.

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Activity 12:



Apply the above notes to the following two poems, looking specifically at how the rhythm is created, how it changes and to what effect:


Night Mail
    

The Charge of the Light Brigade

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Rhyme:

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".

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Activity 13:



Chart the rhyme scheme of the following poem:

     THE TOM-CAT
     By Don Marquis

     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. 

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Vocabulary:



You will never be able to master a subject if you don't have the vocabulary to support it.  So, please learn the following words (contained in these notes).  You will be examined on them.


Vocab Quiz - Figurative Language