Authors of this page are (left to right) Henry Oehmig, Charlotte Higgason, Casey Henderson, and Terence Martin. (Jay Adams added some terms to this page; see his photo on the figurative language page.)
Cliché. "Any expression so often used that its freshness and clarity have worn off. The reader or speaker of the expression pays no attention to the real meaning of the words" (Holman and Harmon).
Connotation. "The emotional implication that words may carry as distinguished from their denotative meanings. Connotations may be (1) private and personal, the result of individual experience, (2) group (national, linguistic, racial), or (3) general or universal, held by all or most people. Connotation depends on usage in a particular linguistic community and climate. A purely private and personal connotation cannot be communicated; the connotation must be shared to be intelligible to others" (Holman and Harmon).
Dead Metaphor. "A figure of speech used so long that it is now taken in its denotative sense only, without the conscious comparison or analogy to a physical object once conveyed" (Holman and Harmon).
Denotation. "The specific, exact meaning of a word, independent of its emotional coloration or associations" (Holman and Harmon).
Idiom. "A use of words, a grammatic construction peculiar to a given language, or an expression that cannot be translated literally into a second language" (Holman and Harmon).
Levels of diction. "There are at least four levels of diction: formal, informal, colloquial, and slang." "It should be noted that the accepted diction of one age is often unacceptable to another" (Holman and Harmon).
Formal diction "refers to the level of usage common in serious books and lofty discourse" (Holman and Harmon).
- "Ultimately every successful character represents a fusion of the universal and the particular and becomes an example of the CONCRETE UNIVERSAL" (Holman and Harmon).
Informal diction "refers to the level of usage found in the relaxed but polite and cultivated conversation" (Holman and Harmon).
- "Let's go to a movie tomorrow night" rather than the formal, "Would you like to attend the cinema with me tomorrow evening?"
Colloquial diction "refers to everyday usage and may include terms and constructions accepted in that group but not universally acceptable" (Holman and Harmon).
- "How y'all doing?" instead of "How are you all doing?"
Slang "refers to a group of newly coined words that are not yet a part of formal usage" (Holman and Harmon).
- "That movie was the bomb," meaning that it was a good movie
Pun. "A play on words. It exploits the multiple meanings of a word, or else replaces one word with another that is similar in sound but has a very different meaning. Puns are sometimes used for serious purposes, but more often for comic effect--almost exclusively so after the eighteenth century" (UVicWriter's Guide).
HAMLET: Whose grave's this, sirrah?
CLOWN: Mine, sir....
HAMLET: I think it be thine indeed, for thou liest in't.
CLOWN: You lie out on't, sir, and therefore `tis not yours. For my part, I do not lie in't, yet it is mine.
HAMLET: Thou dost lie in't, to be in't and say it is thine. `Tis for the dead, not for the quick; therefore thou liest.
CLOWN: `Tis a quick lie, sir; `twill away again from me to you.
Zeugma. "occurs when a word (usually a verb) has the same grammatical relation to two or more other words, but a different meaning in each application" (UVic Writer's Guide).
IMAGERY: the representation through language of sense experience
Auditory imagery. The representation through language of an experience pertaining to sound.
Gustatory imagery. The representation through language of an experience pertaining to taste.
Kinesthetic imagery. The representation through language of an experience pertaining to the movement of the body's muscles, tendons, and joints.
Olfactory imagery. The representation through language of an experience pertaining to smell.
Tactile imagery. The representation through language of an experience pertaining to touch.
Visual imagery. The representation through language of an experience pertaining to sight.
Alliteration. The repetition of initial consonant sounds in words, as in "rough and ready."
Assonance. The repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds, especially in stressed syllables, without repetition of consonants.
Consonance. The repetition of consonant sounds--not limited to the first letters of words.
Onomatopoeia. The use of a word whose sound suggests its meaning: bang, clang, buzz, sigh, murmur.
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