An English Lesson
I came across an old-school mimeographed handout I got while in 11th grade advanced placement English. Eleventh grade was the year where I switched from uber math geek to literary wannabe. Up until the first week of school, I was slated for the typical “honors” English; but when I found out that my friends were in AP, I petitioned the teacher, Mr. Moore, to let me join the class. I hadn’t read the summer reading, Mr. Moore said, and, as the test over the three books was scheduled for that Friday, I would have to catch up quick.
I scored copies of the three books and stayed up through the nights leading up to Friday, honest-to-God reading every page. Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” was one of the books. I can’t bring up the other two–sad, I know. That week was the first time I can remember willing myself to accomplish something. I remember that some of the AP kids hadn’t read the books either, and were also cramming. It was simultaneously my first real lesson in the nature of people–that some will always squander opportunity. I was tired, Friday, but I passed the test.
It was a good year. It awoke my inner writer. Mr. Moore was a tough teacher, but he was honest. I thought, at the time, that I was this big sh*t writer. I was a real dick back then, haughty and drunk on GPA and my elitist friends. I remember being chided and corrected on my writing and feeling indignant. Hurt pride. Teenage angst, emotions, too much for the small sprouts of prose. My sentences were mangled and fustian. Instead of cultivating my new crop, I was already ready for the harvest.
The year ended. There was 12th grade AP English, but I was to follow my family to Kentucky for my final year of high school. I went back for a wedding two years later, but haven’t returned since.
Anyway, here is the handout. It’s a collection of common figures of speech. Enjoy:
Alliteration — Repetition of initial consonant sounds, “beat and empty barrel with the handle of a broom” — Vachel Lindsey, “The fair breeze blew the white foam flew.”
Allusion — A brief passing reference to history, literature, famous people or events, “a figure like Apollo,” “Freud was called the Columbus of the mind.”
Analogy — Unlike items are compared at some length. “Sail on O Ship of State.” “All the world’s a stage and each of us merely players.”
Assonance — Repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds in consecutive words. “Fruit of the Loom,” “How now Brown Cow,” “The owl shall seek out the mouse.”
Hyperbole — An exaggeration not intended to deceive but to emphasize. “This suitcase weighs a ton.” “Mountainous waves breaking on the shore.”
Irony — The writer says one thing but intentionally means something else. “Work fascinates me.” “I can sit and watch it for hours.”
Meiosis — An exaggeration to understate. “Oh! I’m in a bit of a pickle.”
Metaphor — Comparison between two unlike objects or ideas, making a direct statement. “Fame is a flighty bee,” “The heart is a machine.”
Metonymy — The substitution of a term for one with which it is closely associated. “All hands on deck,” “You can’t fight city hall.” Referring to the king as “the crown.”
Onomatopoeia — The word sounds like its meaning, “buzz, crash, clang, puff, zing, thud, clap, tap.”
Paradox — A statement which is basically true, but seems to say two different things. “To damn with faint praise,” “deafening silence,” “alone in the crowd,” “the victory is bitter sweet.”
Personification — Giving human qualities to non-human objects, “the old moon laughed,” “the trees kneeling in praise.”
Simile — Comparison of two unlike objects using “like” or “as.” “His hair was like moldy hay,” “islands struck like pearls in the sea.”
Synecdoche — Substituting part for a whole. “Teacher counted heads.”