Devices Giving Additional Characteristics to the Objects Described



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Devices Giving Additional Characteristics to the Objects Described



Simile.This type draws a comparison between two different objects having some common characteristics. This comparison should be however imaginative. Stylistic simile should not be confused with ordinary comparison because the former is based on juxtaposition of objects belonging to entirely different classes of things.

And people were like rats to each other.

Still on the other hand simile should not be confused with metaphor because these two are of different linguistic nature and belong to different groups of devices.

A simile makes a description more concrete and vivid, similes also give rise to new perception and understanding to the object or both objects compared.

Similes have different structures. Most often they are introduced by conjunctions as, like, as if, as though, etc. or by means of words denoting comparison to resemble, to remind, to suggest, to seem, etc.

As a result of long usage similes loose their original expressiveness and become trite and even clichéd.

As bold as a lion, to jump about like a cat on hot bricks, as gay as a bee.

Such trite similes readily turned into set expressions.

Simile is an explicit statement of partial identity of two objects, being such it differs from metaphor, which is implicit in its essence. Using a metaphor we as though pretend to believe that the thing named is the thing referred to. In case of simile the speaker always knows that one object only looks like or acts like another object. Metaphor is renaming, that is using one word instead of another. In similes two names are exposed and employed.

In trite similes alliteration is often involved.

As dead as a doornail, as bright as a button, as cool as a cucumber, as blind as a bat.

But there are also some without any play of sound.

To fit like a glove, to smoke like a chimney, as drunk as a lord.

Similes may be expressed through sentence structures.

She was like a tigress ready to jump at me. She looked at him as uncomprehendingly as a mouse might look at a gravestone.

Similes may consist of one word only though compound.

Dog-like, hungry-looking.

Like extended or sustained metaphors there may also be sustained similes.

They eased me through a door as if I were a millionaire invalid with four days to live who haven’t as yet paid his doctor’s bill.

Periphrasis.From Greek verb periphrasian that means to speak in a roundabout way. This is a phrase used instead of one word to denote one phenomenon.

Great globules of water were running down his cheeks.

Periphrasis is a stylistic device used to name a notion which in most cases can be easily understood in the given context. Those periphrasis cases which can be perceived without difficulty are usually traditional ones. Through frequent use they become synonymous expressions for the generally used words and are called periphrastic synonyms.

Cap and gown* – the student (*out of use today), gentleman in a long robe – a lawyer, the fair sex – women, my better half – a spouse.

Stylistic periphrasis may be logical and figurative. The former is based on a certain prominent feature of the object described.

Instruments of destruction meaning arms.

Figurative periphrasis is based either on metaphors or metonymies, the result being metaphorical or metonymical periphrasis.

To tie the knot meaning to marry (metaphorical periphrasis).

Periphrasis stands close to tropes yet what helps differentiate them is that periphrasis can never be expressed in one word. Thus calling a book a thriller the speaker uses trite metonymy, calling the same book “200 pages of blood-freezing narrative” he uses periphrasis.

Periphrasis is more characteristic for the writings of the past epochs because it is always redundancy of lingual elements. Thus Dickens called lies told by one of his characters “alterations and improvements on the truth”. In the 20th century prose periphrasis often carried a humorous load.

A disturber of the piano keys – a bad pianist (O’Henry). The minutest coin and himself were absolute stranger – lack of money in somebody’s pocket (O’Henry).

Euphemism.From Greek euphemio – I speak politely. In some scholars’ opinion, classical euphemism is a variety of periphrasis, sometimes named euphemistic periphrasis which substitutes an inoffensive word or expression for a harsh or just unpleasant one. As a rule, a euphemism calls up in readers’ mind the word it stands for.

To die – to be gone, to pass away, to expire, to be no more, to depart, to join the silent majority, to go the way of all the flesh, to go West, etc.

Euphemisms were traditionally used to substitute words forbidden for pronunciation (taboo words). Thus in England in the puritan times the following euphemisms were born and became traditional.

God was replaced by heaven, jove, goodness, lord; devil – duce, old nick, old harry, etc.

According to the sphere of their application euphemisms can be divided into religious, moral (alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.), parliamentary, medical, etc. Medical euphemisms is traditional type of euphemistic expressions. It is called cryptolaly.

Many of them turn into clichés and become the only possible variants of nomination. They are established in language and are recorded in dictionaries.

Lecture 2.4 Stylistic Use of Set Expressions and Allusions. Stylistic Use Of Synonyms

The notion of set expressions will be treated in a broad sense here as any combination of words in which some elements are used in their figurative sense. Hence within this notion included will be proverbs, set expressions, epigrams and idioms. Like separate words every set expression may also be stylistically neutral or elevated or degraded (subneutral). Of special interest to stylistics are those two classes which differ from the norm.

The groups of elevated idioms traditionally singled out by linguists are:

a) Archaisms

The iron in one’s soul meaning permanent imbitterment.

b) Bookish lexicon

To go to Canossa – to submit something.

c) Foreign words

Mot juste – the exact word.

The subneutral layer may be further divided into:

a) Colloquial

Alive and kicking – safe and sound.

Small fry – unimportant people.

b) Jargon

A loss leader – a commodity sold below cost to attract customer.

c) Old slang

To be nuts about something – to be overfond of something.

To shoot one’s grandmother – to say something commonplace.

To keep in the pin – to abstain from drinking.

A very important category for stylistics is the frequency of use of idioms.

While their complete absence makes speech poor, excessive use of idioms may also make it unnatural. Both ways of usage of idioms characterise the so called foreigners’ English.

One of the brightest ways to use set expressions and show their stylistic value is their decomposition. This device is based on the fact that the components of a phraseological unit have no meaning of their own. They make up the meaning only when they are manifested in mutual combinations. Decomposition revives the original meaning of the word with the result that the whole phrase get a fresh significance. Here set expression may be used with definite modifications.

He was reported to have the finger in all…

Here the idiom “to have a finger in one’s pie” is first split and then prolonged.

In a decomposed unit two meanings may be realised simultaneously.

It was raining cats and dogs. And two kittens and a puppy landed on my window-sill.

Decomposition may be manifested as:

1) Replacement of words in an idiom

Fact forbid – God forbid.

The gilded age – the gold age.

2) Literal understanding of words

Soams bit his lips. “God knows”, – he said. But he knew better than God. (Golsworthy)

3) Both replacement and literal understanding

Too true to be good. (B. Shaw)

4) Sound likeness of the words employed

The other side of the metal – advertisement in reference to the inner part of a car based on “the other side of the medal”.

Our love is blinds – love is blind.



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