Hey, this is Mr. Sato. Let’s learn
about figurative language. Figurative language is just
saying one thing and meaning something different from what you
appear to be saying on the surface. They’re figures of speech. When you say, “it cost me
an arm and a leg,” you’re using figurative language, I would hope. You should know how to recognize
it when you’re reading and how to use it when you’re writing. Actually, you probably already use
figurative language, but just might not be up on the terminology. So, we’re going to look at these
8 kinds of figurative language. Also, there’s a short quiz at the end if you
want to test your knowledge. First, metaphor. This is when you say one thing IS
another thing, like if I talk about my elderly dog being an inert lump of coal. This is what he looks like. As you can see, he isn’t actually a combustible black rock
of carbonized plant matter; I’m just saying he hardly ever moves and sleeps 23 hours a day. That’s
a metaphor in the form of a noun. My dog=a lump of coal. This noun
is that noun. That’s a metaphor. But a lot of the time, metaphors
take the form of verbs, like I was “eclipsed by
my brother’s popularity, or the book “sailed” across the room. Or my mother “erupted” when she saw my report card. Those statements aren’t meant literally,
because moons and planets eclipse. Boats sail. And only
volcanoes erupt, literally. Hidden in this sentence about tennis star
Rafael Nadal, the adjective is a metaphor. “Nadal’s most characteristic stroke (is) his searing, spinning, miserable-to-return forehand drive.” Spot the metaphor? Searing isn’t
something a tennis ball can be, not literally; it is something
a red-hot skillet does to a steak. But I guess those
forehand drives are powerful and intimidating, painful to handle,
just like a red-hot skillet. The feelings and associations that come with the red-hot skillet rub off on our
image of Nadal’s tennis playing. It isn’t just fun to listen to;
it adds a shade of meaning. That’s what figurative language does. Similes are my favorite
kind of figurative language, and they’re really easy to explain. This is when you say one thing is LIKE
another, as opposed to saying it IS something, as you would do
with a metaphor. Now, a simile can’t actually be
literally like that thing; “Walt Frazier stood as tall as a library
bookcase” isn’t actually a simile, because it could literally be true. A simile is a figure of speech, so it must
imaginatively compare two things that aren’t actually, literally, the same.
A simile would be, “Walt Frazier stood as tall as the skyscrapers silhouetting the
New York horizon.” Not literally true, but figuratively true. A simile uses “like” or “as.” If you said, “They were as quiet as
a quartet waiting for the downbeat,” that’s a simile and a good one. Scott Russell Sanders wrote that
“guilt burns like acid in my veins.” Love that phrase.Or how about
this one from a song lyric: “He’s got a mind like a sewer and
a heart like a fridge.” Or this one. This one belongs in
the simile hall of fame: “The Countess had a smile like
the first scratch on a new car. It was immanently regrettable.” I could go on with favorite similes all day,
endlessly and as tediously as the seconds on a clock,
but I’ll restrain myself. Personification is when you talk about
an inanimate object as if it were a living thing. “The old car coughed and wheezed
as it struggled up the hill.” A car doesn’t actually breathe or struggle;
it’s just a figure of speech. We are comparing it to a feeble old man. We’re attributing human qualities
to something inanimate. Talking about “Mother Nature” is personification. Or when journalist Dan Rather,
who is from Texas, said of the 2004 presidential election, “This race is humming along like Ray Charles,” we know perfectly well that
an election doesn’t hum, but we get what he means, because
we know how personification works. Hyperbole is just a big word that means exaggeration used to make a point, or to create a certain effect. If you say that your friend “speaks
something like a million languages,” that’s hyperbole, but you’ve made
your point; your friend speaks an impressive number of languages. “I am so hungry I could eat
two cows, a bale of hay, and still have room for dessert.” Hyperbole. Or “Mr. Sato is never going
to stop talking.” Or it was so quiet, you could
have heard a pin drop.” All examples of hyperbole,
a form of figurative language. Understatement is the opposite of hyperbole. Lots of teenagers are masters of this one. It’s when you say a thing is less than it
is, generally to be humorous. If your town closes down Main Street and has a huge and rowdy parade
because your town’s team has won the championship, you might say,
“The town had a little party and invited 700,000 of their closest friends.” Or if you’re talking about The Incredible Hulk
ripping open a truck with his hands, and you say, “He’s got a bit of a temper,”
that’s understatement. Or, “yeah, he’s not happy.” Idioms are just expressions that make sense if you’re familiar with the language. They’re metaphors, similes, and other
figures of speech that have become common expressions.
Like if you were to say, “He hit it out of the ballpark,” someone
who’s unfamiliar with our language might assume you were
talking about baseball, when you were actually just using
a familiar metaphor to say someone did something really well.
Other idioms are “It’s raining cats and dogs” and “that ship has sailed,”
and “you’re pulling my leg.” If you’re from another country, you’d be
like, “what? It’s raining cats and dogs? What are you talking about?” Idioms can be cliches, overused expressions, which should be avoided, but they can also be a lot of fun if used well. You know, side note, other countries have
their own idioms. If you’re in Iran and someone says, “he put his hat on my head,” he or she
means “he pulled a trick on me” or he “swindled me.” It’s a figure of speech. So if a foreigner doesn’t understand
your idioms, cut him some slack. That’d be you if you jumped on an airplane and learned somebody else’s language. An analogy is a simile on steroids. If you
said, this family is like a stalled car, that’s a simile, because you said this thing is like that thing. Right?
But if you went on to say, “a family is like a car. The parent is like
the steering wheel because he or she directs the car, but
the kids are like the wheels. If the wheels won’t move, the steering wheel is powerless and no one is going anywhere. So we need to work together if we want to move forward.” When you explain the relationship
between the parts of a simile in detail, it becomes an analogy. Teenagers know all about irony. They usually call it sarcasm. If a girl said, “You know what I love? Changing a flat tire when it’s pouring rain. Good times.” That’s irony. There are at least three kinds of irony. But here we’re talking about verbal irony: saying one thing and meaning something very different, usually the opposite. Calling
a tall person Shorty as a joke because everyone knows
he’s tall, is verbal irony. Eating a delicious bowl of chocolate
ice cream and saying, “It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it” is irony. You’re saying one thing and
meaning the opposite. But irony can simply mean something different, not necessarily the opposite. Like in “The Cask of Amontillado,” by Edgar Allan Poe, (Spoiler alert)
the first-person narrator is planning to kill someone named Fortunato.
Well, there’s irony number one: Fortunato isn’t “fortunate” at all;
he’s about to die. But when Fortunato says, “I shall not die of a cough,” the killer-to-be says, “True, true.” That’s irony, because
the reader knows that the killer means, “that’s true” because
he isn’t going to die of a cough. The narrator is going to kill him. He says one thing; we know he means
something very different. That’s a kind of verbal irony too. And one last note on figurative language:
be original. “Fast as a racecar” is a simile, yes, and it’s perfectly acceptable, but it’s
not a very clever one. Or: “Judging a book by its cover”
is a metaphor, but it’s also a cliche. It’s overused,
so it isn’t very effective. Try to think of fresh, original metaphors
your reader hasn’t heard before. Personally, as a teacher, I prefer students
to take risks even it means they come up with something
totally overdone or bizarre, rather than play it safe
and be boringly correct. But your teacher might have
different preferences. Ask. OK, so we’ve talked about these
eight kinds of figurative language: metaphor, simile, personification, hyperbole, understatement, idioms, analogy, and irony. There are more kinds, like
synecdoche and apostrophe, but these are the main ones, I think.
Here’s a time index in case you need to re-watch something. Quiz time! So, what kind of figurative language is
being used in these examples? 10 questions. 1. “You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.” Hm? What kind of figurative language is that? Notice: “you ARE the dew on the morning
grass.” OK, no more hints. 2. “A hot wind was blowing
around my head, the strands of my hair lifting and swirling
in it, like ink spilled in water.” 3. Here’s Tupac writing about a person
who overcame hard times: “Long live the rose that grew
from the concrete When no one else even cared!” 4. “The roof might fly off, the walls might
buckle from the pressure of his rage.” That’s a man talking about his
drunk, angry father, by the way, not a person with superpowers. 5. Romeo questions his
mortally wounded friend: “What art thou hurt?” His friend knows he’s going to die from this wound, but he says,
“Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch.” 6. Here the poet is talking about
a field of flowers: “Ten thousand saw I at a glance Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.” 7. “If you want my final opinion
on the mystery of life and all that, I can give it to you
in a nutshell. The universe is like a safe to which there is
a combination. But the combination is locked up
in the safe.” 8. “I can resist everything —
except temptation.” 9. “I heard it through the grapevine.” 10. Russians (are) returning to NHS
after souring on KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) Figurative language adds subtle shades
of meaning to your words, and brings out your personality
in your writing so you don’t sound like a robot from
a 1960s B-movie. Figurative language brings your writing to life. Figurative language jumps off the page,
grabs your reader by the lapels, and wakes him up. And here are what I think are the correct
answers to the quiz: So that’s figurative language.
Go have some fun with it!