Figures of Speech Part III


Here one idea or word is set against another for the sake of emphasis.

God made the country, and man made the town.
United we stand; divided we fall.
Prosperity gains friends; adversity tries them.
Be thou familiar; but by no means vulgar.


An epigram is a short pithy saying in prose or verse. Epigrams are remarkable for brevity. At first reading, an epigram appears to involve contradiction, but on closer examination it seems to embody a shrewd idea.

Examples are given below:

Conspicuous by his absence
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. (Pope)
He who can does; he who cannot, teaches. (Shaw)
A man who sees both sides of a question sees nothing at all.


Pun involves a deliberate play on the various meanings of a word. A pun is employed to achieve the effects of humor, admiration or surprise.

Examples are given below:

An ambassador is a person who lies abroad for the good of his country. (Here the pun is on the word lies.)
‘Yes, the leopard changes it spots, whenever it goes from one spot to another. (Here the pun is on the word spot.)
They went and told the Sexton and the Sexton tolled the bell. (Here the pun is on the words told and tolled which have the same pronunciation, but different meaning.)
I saw a saw that could not saw. (Here the pun is employed on the different meanings of the word saw.)
A teacher trains the mind; a guard minds the train.

Figures of speech based on construction

Climax is a Greek word meaning a ladder. In a climax, the sense rises step by step and becomes more and more impressive.
Read the example given below:
It is useless to continue this struggle; not only useless but also dangerous; not only dangerous, but also criminal.

Anticlimax or pathos
Anticlimax is the opposite of climax. It shows a ludicrous descent from the higher to the lower. Anticlimax or pathos is employed to create a humorous effect.
The soldier fights for glory and a shilling a day.
At one fell swoop, he lost his wife, his children, his houses and his dog.
‘Here, thou great Anna! Whom three realms obey
Dost sometimes counsel take – and sometimes tea.’ (Pope)