What is Figurative Language?

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Figurative Language Song

Sometimes what you mean is not exactly what you say
That’s figurative language, using words in different ways
Personification, alliteration, assonance, hyperbole
Onomatopoeia, metaphor, and simile

Verse I
When Sally seems to sit somewhere separate from Sonia, Or Caleb calls Chris ‘cause he’s coming to California It’s called alliteration: that’s what occurs When you got the same sound at the start of every word
But when you’ve got a vowel sound that keeps sounding the same That’s a figure called assonance, yeah, that’s its name It’s what I’m trying to define by providing this example But I cannot deny that assonance can be a handful


Verse II
A simile is something that you use to compare
Two unrelated things with an element that’s shared My mind is like an ocean; it’s as smooth as jazz But it’s only a simile if it uses “like” or “as”
A metaphor is similar, but watch out! Be careful ’cause you’ve got to leave “like” and “as” out My mind is an ocean; my words are a river, So keep your ears open as I continue to deliver

Verse III
Now if the sun’s smiling down, or the boat hugged the shore That’s personification, nothing less, nothing more
But with a buzz or a ding or a hiss or a roar That’s onomatopoeia that we’re using for sure
Hyperbole: man, that’s like a million times harder!
Take something true, then exaggerate it way farther
Now you’ve heard this song from beginning to the finish
Now you’ve got some tools to draw your literary image


by Gordon Lightfoot

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more

Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side

Coming back from some mill in Wisconson
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms

When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound

And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait

When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck

Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in

And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes

When the words turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized

They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings

In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario

Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed

In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.

© 1976 Moose Music, Inc.


Glittering specks

illuminate the darkness;

Each one shines like a tiny diamond.

Some huddle together in clusters;

others stand alone.

Still others shoot through the sky

like arrows;

on these one makes a wish!

Corner” by Ralph Pomeroy

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