An acronym – S.H.A.M.P.O. – can be used to remember what I would call “The Top Six” figures of speech. Several earlier entries have mentioned them (see Poetry and Song – Figures of Speech) but here’s the entire list with definitions, pronunciations, and examples.
Figures of Speech
Definition: A “figure” of “speech” creates pictures (figures) using words (speech). An author can create a special effect or an image through the unordinary use of words.
If an author’s words are successful, the reader will create or paint a picture in his mind of the scene the author describes.
A number of methods can be used to bring words to life. The most common figures of speech can be remembered using the acronym S.H.A.M.P.O. You may be able to “clean up your writing” with a little SHAMPO.
***the pronunciation symbols have been taken from Dictionary.com. Click to go to that site and hear the word pronounced.
Simile (sim – uh – lee) – makes a direct comparison between two things using the words like, as or than.
The people stood like statues.
He was as restless as a caged lion.
She was madder than a rabid dog.
The flashlight moved through the interior like a searchlight in a prison. (, “Out of the Shadows” by Sigmund Brouwer, p. xiii)
The chance of receiving a fine was more remote than being slapped across the face by the schizophrenic woman playing the ukelele . . . (Garneau Block by Todd Babiak, p. 89)
The movement of the flashlight is being compared to the movement of a prison searchlight. The comparison is direct because the reader is told that both lights move back and forth through the darkness.
Hyperbole (hahy – pur – buh – lee) – an obvious exaggeration that is often humorous.
He is so thin he only has one stripe in his striped pyjamas.
I was so hungry I could have eaten fifty pancakes.
At that moment, David wanted to be in a hot-air balloon floating over the river valley. He wanted to be stuck in traffic on Quesnel Bridge in the middle of January. David wanted to be sick with avian flu, back teaching high-school algebra, . . . (Garneau Block by Todd Babiak. P. 108)
“. . . her implication was less subtle than the working end of a baseball bat.” (Out of the Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer, p. 16)
Numbers are often used in hyperboles. (one stripe, fifty pancakes) Frequently, similes and hyperboles are mixed together – a direct comparison is made but exaggeration and humor are also used.
Loud Fred made more noise than sixty cement mixers mixing bowling balls.
Alliteration (uh – lit – uh – rey – shuh´n) – the repetition of the first consonant sound in a group of words to create a musical effect.
Fat Phillip always fought fiercely.
Crazy Karl clobbered Kondo the conqueror.
The world was crumbling, was nothing more than rubble and ruins, yet they remained the same. (Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, p. 77)
I’m learning. The mick from the lanes of Limerick letting the envy hang out. (Teacher Man by Frank McCourt, p.243)
Not all words have to begin with the same consonant sound (e.g. Kondo the conqueror). The idea is that the overall effect is musical.
It is the sound that is repeated – not necessarily the letters. The “f” sound can be made with “f’s” or “ph’s”. The “k” sound can be made with “k’s” or “c’s” or even “q’s”.
It’s a fine point, but repeated initial vowel sounds are not technically “alliteration.”
Agnes Aardvark always ate apples.
The term “assonance” has been reserved to describe the repetition of the internal repetition of vowels sounds (as in the long o sounds in lonely and goalie) so what the term for the initial repetition of vowel sounds remains a mystery to this author.
Metaphor (met – uh – fawr, -fer) – an indirect comparison between two things. Sometimes one thing is said to be another. Metaphors are indirect because the reader must determine how the two objects are similar.
Her ski jump nose was her most obvious feature.
He had fists of iron.
Fear is a journey, a terrible journey, but sorrow is at least an arriving. (Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton p. 140)
Mammy was now the curator of their lives’ museum and she, Laila, was a mere visitor.
(A Thousand Spendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini p. 128)
Personification (per – son – uh – fi – key – shuh´n) – giving life to a non-living (inanimate) thing.
E.g. The trees in fall put on their coats or red and gold.
The trees are spoken of as if they had the human quality of being able to put on a coat.
The words sprang out at them.
The table collected junk.
Blood crawled over the tops of his fingers. (Out of the Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer, p. 295)
The train shudders to a stop and exhales.(Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen, 1st page of Chapter 3).
Onomatopoeia (on – uh – mat – uh – pee – uh, mat – uh) – words that imitate sounds. A word is created to represent a sound.
The eggs schlooped then sizzled as they landed in the hot fat.
The train poofed and puffed its way up the hill.
DOOOMM, HSST, HNGH, BWAK, ZZHHH (Dragon Ball Z by Akira Toriyama. Pages 88, 89)
So the salesman jangled and clanged his huge leather kit . . . (Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, p. 5)