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Figures of Speech: Crowning Glory of English Language, Explained From Common Usage and From Poetry
A language is well known in Literature because of various special features of grammar. Figures of speech in any language create a place for a language and in this respect the English language occupies a special place in the world of literature because of the beautiful applications of figures of speech. Some languages use figures of speech, but English is unique because of its more modern use.
Figures of speech are mainly used by efficient writers, skilled orators, talented poets and talented playwrights. In this article we will see how these talented genres use this technique to add shine and glory to the language.
But one thing is to insist on this, learning language lessons through exercises has a limited use and only an innate quality can give this talent. However, by reading various articles and listening to lectures, one can improve, rather polish their innate talents and present their writings in a more sparkling manner.
With these few words of introduction, let me analyze the figures of speech in different writings one after the other.
2. What is a figure of speech?
Every writer or poet will put his soul into his writings and writings, so it will be a pure representation of his soul. Its readers must be in tune with the same wavelength and understand the soul behind the creations. Mere words will not be enough to do this work, because words will only represent the body and a deeper technique is needed to convey and understand the soul. Figures of speech will do the job; The words may not be the same that are required to convey the meaning, but something beyond the meaning to convey the spirit. English is very rich in this technique and has several forms of figures of speech. In this article we will see very few of them. It is by no means an exhaustive list and readers are left to read more prose and poetry to learn more and more figures of speech.
It will not be out of place to mention that the classical Tamil language is very rich in this technique and some examples from the Tamil language are also given.
3. Similes and metaphors:
The most basic figures of speech are similes and metaphors. There will be no writer or poet without using these two. A simile is the comparison of two things using words like ‘so or as’, which have a common aspect.
Poets always compare woman to a moon (cool and beautiful) and man to a lion (Brave and handsome) Sometimes women are compared to creeping animals and man to trees, especially a teak tree. In other words, man is always strong like the teak wood, while the creeper hugs the tree with love. Another simile often used is, A man through cruelty in his mind destroys a woman’s life like a crown squeezed by a wild animal.
The imagination of poets knows no bounds. They do not delight in describing the beloved as the moon, but she is a flawless moon. For the moon there is only one full moon day, but for you my love every day is a full moon day (because your beauty never fades) so writes a poet.
Metaphor differs from simile in that it does not compare two things, but makes them into one.
“The lion roared that he would attain freedom” – describing a freedom fighter
Below are some examples of similes and metaphors.
“I wandered lonely as a cloud…”
“Continuous as the shining stars
And twinkle in the Milky Way”
-Both form the poem ‘Narcissus’ written by William Wordsworth.
If life is a journey, travel it,
If life is a game, play it
If life is a challenge, face it,
If life is a fight, win it.
“A Himalayan mistake”, a phrase used by Gandhi.
4. Hyperbole and Litotes:
Hyperbole is a unique quality of poets. In ordinary life, lying is an offense, but in poetry, lying is highly desired to attract the attention and admiration of the readers. It is also an exaggeration to a great extent. Although it is a lie, it will describe the situation well and therein lies the greatness of the poet.
Some examples of hyperbole:
The author wants to add some humor to this article and the following paragraph describing the use of hyperbole will serve the purpose.
In India especially in Tamilnadu people use hyperbole to please their bosses etc very freely. The following examples will explain this.
The moment a political leader gets recognition, wall posters across the city will go up praising him
“Long live our eternal leader,
Just point your little finger, we’ll bring the Earth to your feet”
You are our breath, you are our food, you are our life, etc.”
(In the next election, if the leader is defeated, the posters will also disappear and fresh posters will appear praising the winner. After all “Nothing succeeds like success”.
Another field that gets more love and affection from the audience is film. Fans will wish the Matinee idols on their birthday as follows:
“You are the sun, You give light to Him. When you wake up He is born, when you close your eyes, He will be dark”
The earth spins because of you. The lion learned to roar from your laughter, flowers bloom from your smile” and so on.
Litotes are its opposite, which is to degrade a thing by speaking negatively.
Eg: “Okay, the picture is not bad” means that the picture was quite good.
The man is not stupid means that the man was smart. 5 Euphemisms, dysphemism and oxymoron.
5. Euphemism is saying an unpleasant thing in a pleasant way.
“Oh, my leader sleeps there!” it means he is dead and buried there.
“I’m going to the rest room” means I’m going to the bathroom and so on
Dysphemism is the opposite of euphemism.
Ex: Call a thrifty man a ‘stingy fellow’.
Call a freedom fighter a ‘terrorist’
A boss of the firm is described as ‘together with the pig’s head’.
Oxymoron is combining two contradictory things to define a common feature.
Father to son: “You’re a wise fool. You have a clever way of inviting trouble.”
“I am doing voluntary work out of obligation”
The king was a benevolent dictator.
“Friend was bold with conviction”
The UN sends its ‘peacekeeping force’ to warring countries.
Personification is imagining inanimate things as having life.
“O Death, why do you lay cruel hands on all great men!
O death, thou shalt not die one day’, that others may live – taken from a Tamil poem.
“Behold, his pride and vanity shall speak”
“Oh. Mahatma (Gandhi) Is that why you took away our freedom?”
This is a direct conversation with the dead as if they were alive and standing before us.
Sometimes inanimate objects are assumed to have life and they are addressed.
Oh, India, is there anyone to save you from this calamity?”
“O Indian cinema, do you have any future”?
Antithesis is saying two completely contradictory things in one sentence to emphasize a particular point.
The best example of an antithesis is ‘; Man proposes, God disposes’ which emphasizes that nothing is in our hands.
To err is human, but to forgive is divine.
Speech is silver, but silence is golden.
“Not that I loved Caesar less, but I love Rome more”
Epigrams are almost proverbial sayings that correspond to the antithesis, exciting surprises in the minds of listeners.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
The child is the father of the man.
Poetry is nothing but a glorified lie.
Marriages are legalized prostitution.
Irony is an essential ingredient of poetry and drama. The irony of the circumstances increases the pathos in them and reflects the talents of the writer or poet. It is a subject of which thousands of examples can be given from poetry, prose, plays and films. In fact it takes a series of articles to cover this broad topic. However, let me stop to highlight a few examples to emphasize this figure of speech. (Examples given from own observations).
I).We have seen in some movies, the child is separated from the father. The irony is that the father will help his child in some difficult circumstances without knowing that he is helping his child.
ii) The lovers are separated by cruel fate. When the boyfriend meets his girlfriend after, say, five years, she is none other than his step-daughter, married to his father. The irony is compounded when he or she appears as blind.
iii) A student picks a fight with a lady. When he reaches his exam hall, he is shocked to find that she is none other than his new teacher.
Readers are invited to read more poetry and prose and identify this figure of speech and enjoy the richness of the language.
PUN is quoting a word that gives different meanings: Some people are great experts in this way of speaking. It takes a lot of wisdom to play with a certain word.
A very famous example of this is “God… Became three times and produced nothing” commenting on a British MP who said: “I conceived, I conceived, I conceived”, but did not complete the statement.
A father, on a cloudy day, comments, “neither the sun shines nor my son is bright” to comment on his son’s dismal performance.
“We ‘paint’ for you,” a billboard.
How long we will live depends on the ‘liver’.
It means a change of name, based on the tasks performed:
The jury(s) handed down the death penalty.
The tribune (three-member committee) resolved the offer.
The Crown (King) is pleased, etc.
The faculty (Teachers) had a meeting
13. Climax and anti-climax:
A climax is a dramatic end to a sentence on a positive note, and one on a negative note is the ‘anti-climax’.
He is smart, hardworking, shrewd, studious and is actually ‘intelligence personified’.
He is my Friend, Philosopher and Guide and in short, he is my God.
She is so beautiful. charming, wonderful and none other than Venus who has come to Earth.
These are some examples of Climax.
Examples of anti-climax are:
He is such a rich man as the Lord of wealth, he owns all the gold and money and does not give even a single paisa to the poor.
He buys kilos of food, drink and fruit but cannot eat a single morsel on doctor’s advice (also an example of Irony)
He is a great soccer player, has represented the college team in dozens of games and never scored a goal.
Water everywhere, not a drop to drink.
These are some very simple examples of figures of speech reproduced mostly from personal observations and some from well-known examples. This is only a tip of the iceberg (not a hyperbole) This is indeed a vast area of any language that needs in-depth study. But the habit with most students is to skip this chapter, which usually comes at the end of grammar lessons and seems to be unclear to learn. This article can help create an orientation towards this aspect of learning. If readers are motivated to learn more about figures of speech, the purpose of this article is satisfied.
I wish the readers ALL THE BEST.
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