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Literal Versus Figurative Language

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    We use language to communicate with each other regardless of where we live in this world. We can either speak or write literally or figuratively. In literal language we say or write exactly what we mean while in figurative language our meaning is less obvious. In the following pages we will look at some of the figurative language adopted by the English language. For each term I will give the definition, followed by an example.

    I will then describe an appropriate circumstance for using the example and when it might lead to misunderstanding. Idiom: The language peculiar to a people or to a district, community, or class. Don’t give up your day job. This idiom is commonly used to describe someone who believes they are very good at something and could make a living doing just that when in fact in the eyes of others they are really actually no good. Analogy: The inference that if two or more things agree with one another in some respects. They will probably agree in others.

    During election times we can hear candidates saying things like, Bill Clinton, Rhode Scholar is to genius as Mitt Romney is to ignorance. Metaphor: A figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common. The weather was so heavy on Saturday, it was raining cats and dogs, is an example of a metaphor. We use this metaphor to explain that it was raining heavily. We do not mean that cats and dogs were falling out of the sky. Simile: A simile is a figure of speech where two unlike things are compared, generally by using the word like or as. Good coffee is like friendship: rich and warm and strong. ” (slogan of Pan-American Coffee Bureau). Good coffee is like the friend who is always there to comfort you and make you feel good in spite of all that’s happening around you. You may not want to use this simile sarcastically. Cliche: A cliche or cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful. Absence makes the heart grow fonder is an example of a cliche.

    This means that if two people who love each other are separated, the separation is likely to intensify their love for each other. You would probably not want to use this if your relationship is going sour. It may appear to be an indication of sarcasm at this stage. Amphiboly: An amphiboly occurs when the construction of a sentence allows it to have two different meanings. Teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to drive. It’s getting too dangerous on the streets. This could be taken to mean the teenagers will be in danger, or that they will cause the danger. Flame word”: The Urban Dictonary defines “flame” as a word that means to insult someone electronically, or otherwise, and also to insult a person you are arguing with over the internet in hopes of reviving your argument. After working for Mr. Braker for just about 2 months I realized that he was nothing more than a ‘silver back’ shown through his mannerism, his appearance, and the way her presents himself. He was like a gorilla in the midst. We would probably not want to use this to describe your boss in his presence.

    Hyperbole: Hyperboles are exaggerations to create emphasis or effect. To “wait an eternity” is an example of hyperbole. This means to wait a very long time. So if Joan is to “wait an eternity” for John to propose to her she may be waiting forever. Euphemism: A euphemism is a generally harmless word, name, or phrase that replaces an offensive or suggestive one. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Euphemism. Kick the bucket is an example of euphemism. It is often used when someone dies. It does not mean that we literally kick a bucket.

    Colloquialism: An informal expression that is more often used in casual conversation than in formal speech or writing. I dumped my boyfriend, is an example of colloquialism. This means that she is no longer dating her boyfriend but could be construed to mean she dumped him in a pool of water. Figurative language can be colorful. This is great because if we only speak or write literally our lives, our literature, and our conversations would be boring. The important thing is to recognize when to use appropriately use figurative language versus when to use literal language. .

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    Literal Versus Figurative Language. (2016, Dec 06). Retrieved from

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