Running Head: Figurative versus Literal speech






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The authenticity of every literary work can best be judged by interplay between the figurative and literal speeches. Incorporating figurative literary devices, aids in comprehension while breaking monotony of normal flow of speech. In addition, figurative devices are known as effective mental cues in increasing memory. Never the less, an intricate balance is required to avoid down turns of figurative over use such as inattention and difficulty in understanding. Figurative devices are numerous and are applicable depending on situations and their functions as explained below.


Idiom is a form of figurative language where a set of words are used to imply a meaning dissimilar to their literal meaning. Additionally, the meaning of idioms is not obtained from it’s constitute words but from regular symbolic interpretation. For instance, getting under someone’s skin is interpreted as being very provocative and irritating (Beard, 2003). This idiom can be used to describe and warn in a polite way against actions deemed disrespectful or provocative. Idioms serve to create an illustrative or animation function in literature and general conversation. Additionally, they are used to hint strongly while maintaining general politeness since they are strong attention grabbers.

To enhance literal connection and facilitate comprehension, similarity between two items or situations can be made in the form of an analogy. An analogy can exist in varying forms and lengths, from a word, phrase to a story. Analogies are known to improve memory since an abstract item or situation can have a realness and tangibility attached. For instance, in the issue of love, memory serves the same purpose as a saucer does to soap. This analogy aids an individual in realizing love is held in memory just as soup is held in a saucer. Analogies are useful in situations where the speaker desires to create graphic illustrations to facilitate memory and understanding.

A metaphor on the hand has entails an interplay of word or phrases. A word or phrases normally associated with a certain item or situation is attached to a different item or situation. This can be exemplified by the phrase a pool of love or an ocean of love. Metaphors are important in drawing attention to certain aspects of a situation or item. For instance, in the above example, ones attention is drawn to the immensity of love. Additionally, metaphors are used to evoke memory and emotion in an audience while creating emphasis.

Almost similar to metaphors are similes that are differentiated from the later by use of “like” and “as” in making comparison. Similes are useful in expressing and emphasis emotions in literature (Stark & Birchak 2006). They also increase the entertainment value of literature. An example of a simile is crafty as a fox. This aids the audience in gauging the level of craftiness by bring the nature of a fox in mind. The comparison made through similes creates a vivid touch to the illustration while at the same time remaining emphatic. Consequently, similes are applicable in situations where emphasis and a basis for illustrative comparison is needed such as story telling.

Some of figurative tools do not increase the illustration since the phrases or words used may have lost connotative weight due to regular and prolonged use. Such phrases and words are designated as cliché or truisms. Clichés have a useful purpose in ascertaining language learns since person’s learning a particular language familiarize by using clichés. They are thus considered a indication of fluency. Phrases such as get to the top or busy bee are clichés. They can be used while conversing with persons less familiarized with the language or while in retrospection of basic issues.

Amphibology or amphiboly denotes a figurative way of constructing vague or ambiguous sentences and phrases. The intention is usually to induce the audience to critical thinking in attempt to decipher the real meaning of the sentence or phrase. An illustration would be the sentence “No tea is better than our tea.” There are two meaning to be derived from this sentence. Our tea is either very superior or poor in quality (Stark & Birchak 2006). Another intention associated with amphiboly is deception since the speaker or narrator leaves a leeway for a second option in meaning. This figurative device is also used in poetry as words are interchanged to create rhyme.

Authors and speakers incorporate contemporary expressions of extreme emotions in their works to create emphasis and drawn audience to relate with expressions. Such words are known as flame words. In some instances, the words or phrases are indicated as initials such as OMG meaning Oh my God. They are useful in instances where parallelism in emotion is important and in increasing the realness of the narration (Beard, 2003). They are reflective of contemporary expressions.

Exaggeration applied in sentences or phrases with aim of increasing the inherent humor is known as hyperbole in figurative terms. Apart from humor, hyperboles are useful in creating emphasis or drawing the audience’s attention to a specific aspect. This can be exemplified in the statement “a planet squarely rest on his shoulder” or “my hands weighted tons….” In the first instance, the planet is indicative of a big head conversely, the second case means muscled hands. Hyperboles are important in animating events and descriptions while increasing memory and understanding. They are suitable in relaxing tensed atmospheres.

Depending on the audience, a person may be required to substitute an impolite or offensive statement or word with less direct expressions. The resulting figurative speech is known as euphemism. Instead of excretion, most people use the terms “call of nature” or “pass away” instead of die. Euphemisms are important in addressing large or deviant audiences by reducing the possibility of offending part of the audience.

Figurative speech characterized by use of phrases and words common in informal speech but less preferred in formal writing is referred to as colloquialism (Stark & Birchak 2006). Words such as “wssup” or “gonna” are frequent in normal course of informal conversation but rarely in formal writings. Unlike slang, colloquialisms are usable by all people and are not confined to a special social sublevel. Their usage is indicative of familiarity between the actor and audience.


            To avoid “flat” literal deliveries, integrating figurative devices is imperative in breaking the monotony as well as indicating familiarity with the language. They also increase understanding by forming good parallelisms between abstract ideas and real occurrences. Despite suggestions indicating figurative devices my increase difficulty of understanding and producing reasoning, they have been used since time immemorial. Consequently, figurative speech if used in well increases memory and comprehension.




Beard, P. (2003). The best test preparation for the Advanced Placement Examination, English literature & composition. Piscataway, N.J: Research & Education Association.

Stark, R., & Birchak, K. (2006). Figurative language and other literary devices: Using literature to teach literary techniques. Hawthorne, NJ: Educational Impressions.


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