Metaphor: a figure of speech that constructs an analogy between two things or ideas; the analogy is conveyed by the use of a metaphorical word in place of some other word. For example: "Her eyes were glistening jewels"

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Figures of Speech


A figure of speech that constructs an analogy between two things or ideas; the analogy is conveyed by the use of a metaphorical word in place of some other word. For example: "Her eyes were glistening jewels".

Colonel Kurtz: "Are you an assassin?"

Captain Willard: "I'm a soldier."

Colonel Kurtz: "You're neither. You're an errand boy...sent by grocery collect a bill." (From Apolcalypse Now)

Trying to get banks to lend in this economic climate is impossible. It’s pushing a string

Clichés are usually dead metaphors:

  • Love is blind.

  • It takes two to tango.

  • Misery loves company.

  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  • Too little, too late.

  • Tip of the iceberg

But clichés can be used as the basis for a witty jujitsu by taking the form and substituting other words:

  • Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

  • You can bring a whore to culture (original: horticulture), but you can’t make her think.

  • Bankruptcy is a fate worse than debt.

  • One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.

  • The leisure of the theory class.

Or as Heinrich suggests, by taking them literally when they are used by others:

Opponent: The early bird catches the worm

You: It can have it.

Opponent: Let’s not pour the baby out with the bath water.

You: No, let just pull the plug.

Chiasmus: [kahy-az-muhs]

A reversal in the order of words in two otherwise parallel phrases, as in “He went to the country, to the town went she.”

  • "Eat to live, not live to eat" - Attributed to Socrates

  • "Live to fly, fly to live" - Iron Maiden's 1984 song Aces High

  • "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961.

  • "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." Winston Churchill, The Lord Mayor's Luncheon, Mansion House, November 10, 1942.

  • "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, the rock was landed on us." Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet, Washington Heights, NY, March 29, 1964.

  • "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Joseph Kennedy

  • "You win to play, and you play to win." origin unknown, common phrase in sports

  • "Truth is beauty, beauty truth." John Keats

  • "The weapons of war must be abolished, before they abolish us." John F. Kennedy

  • "Let's make sure that the Supreme Court does not pick the next president, and this president does not choose the next Supreme Court." Albert Gore Jr. at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

  • "America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way round. Human rights invented America." [1] Jimmy Carter Farewell Address

  • "What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight — it's the size of the fight in the dog." Dwight D. Eisenhower January 1958 speech to the Republican National Committee

  • "Some people use change to promote their careers; other people use their careers to promote change." Sarah Palin

  • "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." Benjamin Franklin

Repetition/Parallelism: Anaphora, Epistrophe, Symploce, Climax

These three figure use repetition and parallel structure to emphasize and make more memorable an idea:

Anaphora: [uh-naf-er-uh]

Figure of repetition that occurs when the first word or set of words in one sentence, clause, or phrase is/are repeated at or very near the beginning of successive sentences, clauses, or phrases; repetition of the initial word(s) over successive phrases or clauses.

Mad world! Mad kings! Mad composition!

  • William Shakespeare, King John, II, i

With malice toward none;

with charity for all;

with firmness in the right,...

  • Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...

  • Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender. --Winston Churchill
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never. --Elie Wiesel, Night

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state, sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We want freedom by any means necessary. We want justice by any means necessary. We want equality by any means necessary.

  • Malcolm X


Epistrophe (eh-PISS-truh-FEE):
Figure of repetition that occurs when the last word or set of words in one sentence, clause, or phrase is repeated one or more times at the end of successive sentences, clauses, or phrases.
...and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." --Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
"The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divides [sic] us has come."--Nelson Mandela

"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."--George Patton

"You have the luxury of not knowing what I know -- that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives, and my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives." -- Jack Nicholson (from the movie A Few Good Men)


Symploce: [sim-ploh-see]

Figure of repetition that combines Anaphora and Epistrophe in which the first and last word or words in one phrase, clause, or sentence are repeated in one or more successive phrases, clauses, or sentences; repetition of the first and last words in a clause over successive clauses.

"Let us let our own children know that we will stand against the forces of fear. When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it."

"And while there will be time enough to debate our continuing differences, now is the time to recognize that that which unites us is greater than that which divides us."-- Al Gore, 2000 Concession Speech

"My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."-- Ted Kennedy, Eulogy for Robert F. Kennedy

"We remember today that all our gentle heroes of Vietnam have given us a lesson in something more: a lesson in living love -- their love for their families lives; their love for their buddies on the battlefields and friends back home lives; their love of their country lives."-- Ronald Reagan, Address at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial

Figure of repetition in which words or phrases or sentences are arranged in order of increasing intensity or importance, often in parallel construction; words or phrases arranged by degrees of increasing significance.

“You can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few perverted, sick individuals, but if you do, shouldn’t you blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg, isn’t this an indictment of our entire American Society? You can do what you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you bad mouth the United States of America. –Otter, Animal House

"Oh, America didn't need repeal, she needed repentance; she didn't need rum, she needed righteousness; we don't need jags, we need Jesus; we don't need more grog, we need more of God."—Billy Sunday
A little neglect may breed great mischief . . . for want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost. --Benjamin Franklin
“They call for you: the general who became a slave; the slave who became a gladiator; the gladiator who defied an emperor. Striking story.” The Emperor Commodus to Maximus, the gladiator in Gladiator

Aboard my ship, excellent performance is standard. Standard performance is substandard. Substandard performance is not permitted to exist. That I warn you. –Captain Queeg, The Caine Mutiny


Alliteration: Figure of emphasis that occurs through the repetition of initial consonant letters (or sounds) in two or more different words across successive sentences, clauses, or phrases.

Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin

Shops: "Coffee Corner", "Sushi Station", "Best Buy".

"busy as a bee", "dead as a doornail", "good as gold", "right as rain", etc..

"No one standing in this house today can pass a puritanical test of purity that some are demanding that our elected leaders take." -- Richard Gephardt    

Nattering nabobs of negativity—Spiro Agnew


Anastrophe [uh-nas-truh-fee]

A figure of speech involving an inversion of a language's ordinary order of words; for example, saying "smart you are" to mean "you are smart". In English, with its settled natural word order, departure from the expected word order emphasizes the displaced word or phrase: "beautiful" is emphasized in the City Beautiful urbanist movement; "primeval" comes to the fore in Longfellow's line "This is the forest primeval." Where the emphasis that comes from anastrophe is not an issue, "inversion" is a perfectly suitable synonym.

Yoda from the Star Wars series commonly uses anastrophe.

"Told you, I did. Reckless is he. Now matters are worse."

"Mind what you have learned. Save you it can."
"If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice."
Mingella and Blobbelda Winkybunion from the Banjo-Kazooie series use it too.

"Grunty's sisters you should not mock, now watch our magic blast this rock!” –Mingella

"Seen us bony man has. Him we must whack!" -Mingella

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