Rhetorical Devices: Tropes

Posted: March 19, 2014 in Rhetorical Analysis, Writing Advice
Tags: , , ,

Metaphor

A comparison made by referring to one thing as another.

  • No man is an island.
  • The mind is but a barren soil; a soil which is soon exhausted and will produce no crop, or only one, unless it be continually fertilized and enriched with foreign matter.

Simile

An explicit comparison, often (but not necessarily) employing “like” or “as.”

  • Her hair was like gravy, running brown off her head and clumping up on her shoulders.
  • The air-lifted rhinoceros hit the ground like a garbage bag filled with split pea soup.

Metonymy

Reference to something or someone by naming one of its attributes.

  • The orders came directly from the White House.
  • The pen is mightier than the sword
  • The IRS is auditing me? Great. All I need is a couple of suits arriving at my door.

Synecdoche

A whole is represented by naming one of its parts

  • The rustler bragged he’d absconded with five hundred head of longhorns.
  • If I had some wheels, I’d put on my best threads and ask for Jane’s hand in marriage.
  • I should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas

Zeugma

General term describing when one part of speech governs two or more other parts of a sentence. For example, two different words linked to a verb or an adjective which is strictly appropriate to only one of them.The main benefit of the linking is that it shows relationships between ideas and actions more clearly.

  • Fred excelled at sports; Harvey at eating; Tom with girls.
  • Nor Mars his sword, nor war’s quick fire shall burn/The living record of your memory.
  • Alexander conquered the world; I, Towson.

Personification

Reference to abstractions or inanimate objects as though they had human qualities or abilities.

  • England expects every man to do his duty.
  • The coffee is strong enough to get up and walk away.
  • Snow and wind howled through the streets.

Onomatapeoia

Use of words to imitate natural sounds of the word being described.The written language retains an aural quality, so that even unspoken your writing has a sound to it.

  • Someone yelled, “Look out!” and I heard a loud screech followed by a grinding, wrenching crash.
  • Plop, buzz, ribbit, slam, sizzle, etc.

Hyperbole

Rhetorical exaggeration for emphasis or effect. In formal writing the hyperbole must be clearly intended as an exaggeration, and should be carefully restricted.We are a society of excess and exaggeration. Handle hyperbole like dynamite, and do not blow up everything you can find.

  • My vegetable love should grow/Vaster than empires, and more slow;/An hundred years should got to praise/Thine eyes and on thine forehead gaze;/Two hundred to adore each breast,/But thirty thousand to the rest.
  • I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate.

Catachresis

The use of a word in a context that differs from its proper application in an alien or unusual way.

  • The podcast included a soundseeing tour of London’s theatre district.
  • I will speak daggers to her.
  • The little old lady turtled along at ten miles per hour.

Oxymoron

Placing two ordinarily opposing terms adjacent to one another. usually in an adjective-noun  or adverb-adjective relationship, and is used for effect, complexity, emphasis, or wit

  • The sounds of silence
  • The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, / With loads of learned lumber in his head
  • I must be cruel only to be kind
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