Figures of Speech (Part 2): Tropes and Schemes


In the previous video, we saw that
a figure of speech is a way to use figurative language to change
the meaning of words creatively. It covered the basics only, so we didn’t look at many types
of figures of speech… … and it didn’t tell the whole story,
either. Figures of speech can be categorized
as tropes and schemes, and each of these categories has
subcategories… Well, many of you asked for a follow up… so, stick around and let’s take a
deeper look at figures of speech. Hi! Welcome to Snap Language. I’m Marc Franco. In the first video, we saw that,
when you say something literally, the words you use have their
conventional meaning. When you say something figuratively,
what you say needs to be interpreted because it actually means
something else. But that is *one* category
of figures of speech. Figures of speech that play with
the meaning of words like that are called “tropes.” Sometimes they’re called
“figures of thought,” too… (Remember, they play with
meanings or ideas.) Schemes, the other category of
figures of speech, also create an effect, but you do that by playing with the structure
of the language. You can change word order, omit or repeat words, or arrange sentences in unusual ways. Both tropes and schemes create
meaning or nuances in meaning; they just go about it differently. Okay, we need some examples here… (Are you taking notes?) I’ll start with two disclaimers, though. First, there are different ways of categorizing
figures of speech depending on the school of thought you subscribe to. Also, when I was doing research
for this video, I found a list with as many as
1,489 names of figures of speech. So… no, you won’t find them all here. Let’s look at tropes first. Tropes themselves can be divided into
6 subcategories. In the first subcategory, you refer to
something as something else. We saw similes in the first video,
where you refer to an idea as another using “like” or “as.” “This bread is as dry as a bone!” Bread… bone?… Oh, you describe the dryness of
the bread by comparing it to the dryness
of a bone. “Her teeth are as white as snow.” “He ran like a scared rabbit.” “They fought like cats and dogs.” So, similes create an association
to convey meaning. Metaphors also do that, but the quality associated with the comparison
isn’t always straightforward. It doesn’t use “as” or “like,” and
you must infer the association. “Her voice was music to my ears.” Her voice… music… pleasant? comforting?… “They worked in the shadows.” How did they work?… Shadows… in secret?… In hiding! You should notice that the associations
in metaphors are often less explicit than those in similes. “Life is like a game of chess” is a simile. Because “like” is used, and
“life” and “chess” don’t have much to do with one another, you know
this is not literal. Now, “Life is a game of chess”
is a metaphor. The comparison is implied. It’s up to you to detect the figure
of speech and interpret its meaning. In both cases, you also need to
interpret the quality that “life” and “a game of chess” might
share. Complicated… difficult… unpredictable?… You *might* interpret it as “boring”
(if you’re not into chess)… but… well… you know that’s not it. As part of our culture,
we share the common idea that chess is a difficult, unpredictable game
(whether you agree or not). An unexpected metaphor can be used
creatively as a literary device. The comparison seems incompatible,
even incorrect but, as you analyze it, you realize it creates an interesting effect. This type of metaphors is called
a mixed metaphor or catachresis. “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Comparing revenge to a dish
may seem odd at first, but it’s meaningful. It means you should wait for the right time
to get even dispassionately. “I’ve heard many of his ideas. They’re red balloons… (huh?) … that soar into an empty sky,
never to be seen again.” Ah! As a mixed metaphor or catachresis,
this is kind of a poetic way of saying someone has a lot of lofty ideas
that never get put into action. You see here how being
straightforward and simply saying, “He never follows through with his ideas” isn’t as effective or colorful as
using a mixed metaphor. It delivers the same message but
with an added “punch.” Another type of figures of speech
by association is personification. Here you associate an inanimate object or an animal with a quality or trait that
human beings have. “That leftover pizza in the fridge
is calling my name.” “The fire swallowed the building
in a matter of minutes.” “The old car moaned as it went up
the steep hill.” Metonymy is a trope where, essentially,
what you say represents something else. For example, when you say, “Wall street is doing well,” you’re using “Wall Street” to mean
“the investment industry” because one is closely associated
with the other. “The White House made
an announcement.” Here, literally, “the White House” is
where the president of the U.S. lives. But buildings don’t make announcements. Of course, in this sentence, it refers to the president or the president’s
staff, not the building. “I’m all ears.” Here “all ears” represents
someone’s undivided attention. “This company needs new blood.” “Blood” here represents people. Synecdoche is similar to metonymy. The difference is that synecdoche is
a figure of speech where the whole stands in for the part or
for the essence of a thing… Or the other way around;
you can use the part to refer to the whole. “Mmm, nice wheels!” Here, “wheels” represents the whole car. The part represents the whole. “To win this war, we’ll need
boots on the ground.” “Boots” represents soldiers or troops. The part represents the whole. When you “take a headcount,” of course,
you are not just counting heads but whole people. “I never use cash anymore, only plastic.” Here the material something is
made of represents that something. A euphemism is the use of
something pleasant or agreeable to mean something unpleasant
or disagreeable. They’re used to avoid talking directly about things we’re socially
uncomfortable with. “He passed away” or “he passed on”
are euphemisms for “he died.” “To pass wind” is a euphemism for “fart.” “Expecting” is a euphemism used by people uncomfortable with the word
“pregnant.” If you’re not, you might say,
“She was knocked up.” If so, you’re using a dysphemism, which
gets the opposite effect of a euphemism. “He’s in the boneyard” uses
a dysphemism for “cemetery.” “The nuthouse” is a dysphemism
for “a mental institution.” Interestingly, the euphemistic
“mental institution” itself has acquired a negative connotation over time, so now the more euphemistic term
might be a “mental health facility.” It’s interesting how language use
changes over time. (We have a video for that.) A term that was once considered fine to use can acquire
a negative connotation, so we create a euphemism for it. In time, the new euphemism becomes
negatively charged, and we come up with a new euphemism for that. And the process just keeps going… For example, “a cripple” became
“a handicapped person,” which became “a disabled person” or
“a person with a disability.” People have even come up with
“a differently abled person.” Interestingly, many people with disabilities
dislike overly euphemistic terms like that; they come across as patronizing. Another subcategory of tropes creates
meaning through wordplay or puns. Onomatopoeia plays on the sounds of
words to imitate what we’re referring to. In fact, many words in English are
onomatopoeic. For example, you honk a horn, you hear a thump in the middle of the night, you tell someone to shush, or you drink something in one gulp. As a literary device, onomatopoeia
can make your writing colorful and add emotion to your ideas by recreating
the sounds associated with them. A pun is a play on words. You can use words that have
different spellings but sound the same or words that have the same spelling but
mean different things. “I witnessed a kidnapping yesterday. It’s all right, though. The kid woke up.” You know… a kid napping… “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” (I’ll let you think about this one.) “Don’t waste time writing with that pencil. It’s pointless.” Substitutions are another
subcategory of tropes. Anthimeria uses one part of speech
for another–like a noun for a verb, or a verb for a noun, and so on. “This book is a good read.” “I want to stay home tonight and
Netflix till I fall asleep.” “I forgot to hashtag my post.” Periphrasis is when you use a name to describe the characteristic
associated with it. “He’s good looking, but he’s no Brad
Pitt.” “Mary was the Einstein in my school.” Overstatements and understatements
are another subcategory of tropes. A hyperbole is a figure of speech
where you highlight the characteristic you’re describing by emphasizing or
exaggerating it. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!” (Well… doubtful, but I get what you mean.) “His brain is the size of a pea.” (Yeah, that’s very small.) Careful how you use hyperbole, though. It can come across as a bit abrasive. An understatement highlights
a characteristic, too, but by emphasizing its opposite. For example, you’re in the middle of
a huge storm, and you say, “It’s a bit breezy outside.” Semantic inversions are
another subcategory of tropes. Here, you say one thing but mean another
or create an effect by inverting the common meaning of words. An oxymoron, for example, is
a pair of words that contradict each other. “An open secret” is a good example. A quote attributed to Henry Ford is “A business that makes nothing but
money is a poor business.” The contradiction is in “making a lot
of money” and “being poor.” Andy Warhol described himself as “I am a deeply superficial person.” An oxymoron creates a figure of speech
because the meaning of the words goes beyond the literal meanings
the words have by themselves. It also creates an effect… it draws attention to the quality
you’re describing. For example, if you just say, “Everybody was quiet.” Meh!… it doesn’t have the same effect
as saying, “The silence was deafening.” Or “John’s lazy” Meh!… versus “John is always busy doing nothing.” (Yikes!) A rhetorical question is a way to
express something in the form of a question though it’s not really
meant as a question. Let’s say you’re discussing
something perplexing. You might say, “Well, who knows?” You’re not really asking
who knows something. This is just a rhetorical question
meaning “this is perplexing.” If you’re given choices but aren’t excited
any of them, you might say, “What’s the difference?” Again, not really a question. There are many types of rhetorical
questions, such as anthyphora, where you ask questions and
answer them yourself. “Have I made a mistake? Yes, I have! But who hasn’t? Nobody. Not even you!” “How important is this? Well, it could save your life one day. Wouldn’t you want to know something
that important? I’m sure you would.” If you ask rhetorical questions when you’re deliberating with yourself,
it’s called aporia. “Should I stay, or should I go? But what are the consequences of
my decision? Is it brave to stay and fight? Is it wise to leave and avoid conflict?” These are not real questions that need
to be answered. This is just using aporia to express
that you’re deliberating on a topic. Epiplexis is a type of rhetorical question
you use to show disapproval, surprise, or even contempt. When you say “What were you thinking?!” Again, not really a question. This is just a way to show disapproval. “Can you believe what he did?” You can even use a question to
affirm something strongly. That’s called erotema. “Why are you such a coward?” “Isn’t that amazing?” In a double negative, or a litote, you say what you don’t… not mean…
to mean what you mean huh?… Well, you express what you want to say
by expressing the negative of its opposite. “You are not completely wrong.” “How was the party?” — “It wasn’t a total disaster…” “That was no small feat.” Depending on how they’re used,
double negatives can produce both positive and negative messages. That’s why they are often used
used in backhanded compliments. “You’re not as naive as I thought.” (Mm… thank you?…) “I wasn’t very disappointed
by your presentation.” (Well, were you a little disappointed?) There are quite a few other types
of tropes in each of these categories, but these are the main ones. “Should I include everything in this video? If I do, we’ll be here all day!” So, let’s move on to schemes, the other
broad category of figures of speech. So, keep in mind. Tropes are a category of figures of speech that play with
the meaning of words. Schemes play with the
arrangement of words; they play with the structure
of the language to create an effect. Schemes also have subcategories. To simplify things in this video,
I’ll combine similar categories. The first category plays with the balance
or arrangement of words and ideas. Parallelism is the arrangement of
similar ideas in a parallel structure. “Thai dishes are
pleasant to the eyes, sweet to the nose, and hot to the tongue.” “Words are cheap;
actions are gold.” Here’s a famous example of parallelism
by President John F. Kennedy: “And so, my fellow Americans,
ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” When the parallel structure
contrasts ideas, it’s called antithesis. Here’s a famous antithesis by Neil
Armstrong, the first man on the Moon: “That’s one small step for a man,
one giant leap for mankind.” And Martin Luther King, Jr., said,
“We must learn to live together as brothers
or perish together as fools.” Climax is type of scheme where
you arrange words in order of importance. “He lived for his family, for his country,
and for the betterment of mankind.” (… and for the whole Universe…) “Biologists seek to understand
organisms, ecosystems, and the fabric of life itself. Another type of parallelism is called zeugma, where a word governs
more than one part of the sentence. “I opened my mouth
and a can of worms.” “Because of his alcoholism,
he lost his family, his job,
and his mind.” “The tornado destroyed
his house, his business,
but not his will to rebuild.” Another category of schemes creates
an effect by changing word order. An anastrophe uses unusual word order
to put focus on certain ideas. “Smiling he ran the race, and
with his head held high he lost.” “He saw the wild bear,
hungry and angry, standing right in front of him.” “Patience, I do not have.” A parenthesis, as you’d expect,
inserts a clause within a sentence, which breaks the normal
flow of information. “The danger in ignoring your problems, I’m sure you are aware of it, is that they just keep getting worse.” “As I looked at the beach– –it was the beach I played on
so many times as a child– memories rushed through my mind.” Schemes can also be categorized as
omissions and repetitions. An ellipsis is the omission of a word or
idea that is implied from the context. “I like biology; physics, not so much.” “The tornado destroyed his house and
his business–not his will to rebuild.” Alliteration is the repetition of sounds
in a sentence, usually the first sound. “Bring family and fast friends to our
Friday Fajita Fest.” “Sam whistled a sweet song
to soothe sad Susan’s spirit.” Assonance is the repetition of
vowel sounds. “Jack laughed at the fat cat
that sat on the mat.” “Having botched the job, Rob sobbed.” Anaphora is the repetition of the same
word or words in successive clauses. “I need it right here, right now, right
away.” “I told you how to do it. I told you when to do it. I told you why to do it. Yet, you did nothing!” You can see that tropes and schemes
are a bit different. Tropes play with the meaning of
words and ideas. Schemes play with the structure
of the language. What is similar between tropes
and schemes is that they’re both devices that create and effect. They’re both something you do
with the language so you don’t sound like a robot, always saying things
the same way. You can deliver a message literally;
you’re straightforward and say exactly what you mean. But when you use a figure of speech,
you can deliver the same message, but you add flavor and nuance to it. Before you start adding things
to the comments like, “But in *this* book, they use different
categories, or they say that this figure of speech
is called something else,” keep in mind these are
not written in stone. The Ancient Greeks were already
fascinated by rhetorical devices and had their own ways
of categorizing things. There *are* other ways to categorize
and subcategorize figures of speech to study language and
understand rhetorical devices. The important thing is to know that
understanding these devices helps you understand how you can manipulate
language to create meaning. It helps you appreciate how writers use
literary devices. If for no other reason, understanding
figures of speech helps you appreciate how language is more than just grammar
and words and their meanings. Human beings have this amazing ability to use language creatively and
express complex thoughts with nuance… and even beauty. Ugh! Can you believe that,
when I was recording this video, the camera shut itself off here,
and I didn’t even notice? So, I wanted to wrap things up… Thanks for making it this far, and
I wanted to let you know that Snap Language has a web site now. We’ll be using it to post extra materials
that complement the videos, articles, materials for students
and instructors… … and things like that. So, always check the description
below any of our video for links to “Supplemental Materials.” You can help Snap Language
by subscribing, sharing our video, and
helping promote the channel. I’d really appreciate that because
your support helps me keep making these videos. And, until the next time, thanks for stopping by and
watching this video. Is it time to go? Yeah. Bye!…

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