Grammar: Word Play

Posted December 26, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

Revised as of:
21 Feb 2017

Word play, i.e., verbal games, uses words to be witty, funny, make a memorable point, encourage understanding, make an impact, brighten text, for vehemence or emphasis, enhance a musical effect, catch attention, convey an idea or emotion, create an atmosphere, enforce an idea, and more.

Word Play is a Literary Device, Just Like Figures of Speech and Rhetorical Devices

Word Play is a verbal game of wit and fun that brightens and enhances the reader’s understanding that comes under the category of literary devices and may incorporate figures of speech or rhetorical devices.

A literary device is a linguistic or literary technique that creates specific effects, plots, styles, and more in the overall category for figure of speech, rhetorical device, and word play.

A figure of speech alters the meanings of words, going beyond a word’s or phrase’s literal interpretation, like simile, metaphor, hyperbole, and more. It becomes a device in rhetoric when it is aimed at persuading the readers or listeners.

A rhetorical device is used in the art of discourse in which the writer (or speaker) uses different methods to convince, influence, or please an audience. This helps explain why rhetorical devices and figures of speech occasionally swap categories.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone on an area of grammar with which you struggle or on which you can contribute more understanding.

If you found this post on “Word Play” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

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Word Play
Credit to: Wikipedia: List of Forms of Word Play, antanaclasis;
Part of Speech: Literary Device
Definition: The witty exploitation of the meanings and ambiguities of words, especially in puns.

There are six techniques used in word play:

  1. Figures of speech
  2. Formation of a Name
  3. Letters
  4. Manipulation of the Entire Sentence or Passage
  5. Phonetic Values
  6. Semantics, Choosing Words

Authors known for their word play include Shakespeare, P.G. Wodehouse, James Joyce, Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, John Donne, Jessica Grant’s Come, Thou Tortoise, Mark Dunn’s Ella Minnow Pea, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland


By CategoriesAlphabeticalCharacter Name PlayEmphasisPlaying with LanguagePlaying with LettersPlaying with SoundPlaying with Words
A.k.a., wordplay, play-on-words
They were yung and easily freudened. – James Joyce They were young and easily frightened is a pun on the names of two famous psychoanalysts, Jung and Freud.

  1. Green indicates the word being played.
Acronym An abbr. VERSION (visit entries reading samples in one note) of “Formatting Tip & Grammar: Acronyms & Initialisms for more depth and the acronym’s many, many variations.
Anagram Definition: The result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce a new word or phrase, using all the original letters exactly once.

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Anagrams have been used to create codes, poke fun, etc.

Other Types of Anagrams include:

mother-in-law Hitler woman
debit card bad credit
dormitory dirty room
the earthquakes the queer shakes
astronomer moon starrer
punishments nine thumps
school master the classroom
anagram nag-a-ram
Tom Marvolo Riddle I am Lord Voldemort
Ananym Definition: A type of anagram that is a word whose spelling is derived by reversing the spelling of another word.

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Ananym Derived From Meaning
Harpo Productions Oprah (Winfrey) Oprah’s media company
Erewhon nowhere A utopia
elgooG Google reverse-spelling search engine
MAPS (Mail Abuse Prevention System) spam reverse backronym
Nomad Damon Damon Rochefort is a founding member of this band.
Namyats Stayman Sam Stayman invented this bridge convention.
Blanagram Definition: A word which is an anagram of another but for the substitution of a single letter.

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Turkish is a blanagram of Kurdish.

Pangram, tangram and managua are blanagrams of the word anagram.

Gantries and ingrates are blanagrams of angriest

Definition and examples courtesy of Blanagram (Wikipedia).

Palindrome Definition: A type of verbal play using a number, a word, a sentence, a symbol, or even signs that can be read forward as well as backward or in reserve order with the same effects and meanings.

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Different types of palindromes are available depending upon the requirements of the subject.

Most Commonly Used Palindromes:

Definition and examples courtesy of Literary’s Palindrome“.

Character by Character Palindrome Definition: Reads the same top to bottom, letter by letter.

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Demetri Martin’s “Dammit I’m Mad”:

Dammit I’m mad.
Evil is a deed as I live.
God, am I reviled? I rise, my bed on a sun, I melt.
To be not one man emanating is sad. I piss.
Alas, it is so late. Who stops to help?
Man, it is hot. I’m in it. I tell.
I am not a devil. I level “Mad Dog”.
Ah, say burning is, as a deified gulp,
In my halo of a mired rum tin.
I erase many men. Oh, to be man, a sin.
Is evil in a clam? In a trap?
No. It is open. On it I was stuck.
Rats peed on hope. Elsewhere dips a web.
Be still if I fill its ebb.
Ew, a spider… eh?
We sleep. Oh no!
Deep, stark cuts saw it in one position
Part animal, can I live? Sin is a name.
Both, one… my names are in it.
Murder? I’m a fool.
A hymn I plug, deified as a sign in ruby ash,
A Goddam level I lived at.
On mail let it in. I’m it.
Oh, sit in ample hot spots. Oh wet!
A loss it is alas (sip). I’d assign it a name.
Name not one bottle minus an ode by me:
“Sir, I deliver. I’m a dog”
Evil is a deed as I live.
Dammit I’m mad.

Definition and examples courtesy of Patricia Gay’s “Poetry Friday: Playful palindromes“.

Name Palindrome Definition: A name, that when reversed, is the same name.

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Lon Nol was a Prime Minister of Cambodia.

Nisio Isin was a Japanese novelist.

Robert Trebor was an actor.

Stanley Yelnats is a character in Louis Sachar’s Holes.

Word Palindrome Definition: A word, that when reversed, is the same word.

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Number Palindrome Definition: A number that is the same when written forwards or backwards.

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88, 99, 101, 111, 121, 131, 141, 151, 161, and 171
Line-Unit Palindrome Definition: Reverses the order of the sentences, in that it reads the same from the first line to the last line as it does from the last to the first.

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Was it a car or a cat I saw?

“Lewd did I live & evil I did dwel.” – O. A. Bootty’s The Funny Side of English

“Norma is as selfless as I am, Ron.” credited to poet W.H. Auden

A Toyota’s a Toyota.

Word-Unit Palindrome Definition: Reverses the order of the words, instead of the letters.

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Nick Montfort has tweeted:
“Mind your own business: Own your mind.”

“Information school graduate peruses graduate school information.”

“Desire? Consuming produce can produce consuming desire.”

Howard W. Bergerson’s Palindromes and Anagrams:
“You can cage a swallow, can’t you, but you can’t swallow a cage, can you!”

“What! So he is hanged, is he? So what?”

Definition and examples courtesy of “Word-unit palindromes“.

Semordnilap Definition: A type of verbal play in which words spell new words when spelled backwards.

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stressed desserts
reviled deliver
stop pots

Definition and examples courtesy of Literary’s “Palindrome“.

Ambigram Definition: From a strictly narrative viewpoint, an ambigram is a word that can be reversed and still mean the same thing.

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More likely to be used in graphics. Check out Sonali Vora’s post, “A Clever Collection of 40+ Inspiring Ambigrams” for those graphic examples.
Antonyms of Unpaired Words Definition: Unpaired words are words that do not have an antonym, a paired word. A word may appear to have a related word due to its having a prefix or suffix, but doesn’t.

Sometimes this lack is because that antonym disappeared from common usage, sometimes there never was a pairing.

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Real Word Not Popularly Used Doesn’t Exist Exists But is Not Related
nonplussed plussed
disheveled sheveled
indifferent different
reckless reckful
indefatigable fatigable
disarray array
incorrigible corrigible
intact tact
disgruntled gruntled

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is full of such unpairings.

Aptronym Definition: A personal name aptly or peculiarly suited to its owner.

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author Paul Dickson cites a long list of aptronyms originally compiled by Professor Lewis P. Lipsitt, of Brown University.[2] Psychologist Carl Jung wrote in his book Synchronicity that there was a “sometimes quite grotesque coincidence between a man’s name and his peculiarities”.[3] A.k.a., aptonym, euonym
Jules Angst German professor of psychiatry, who has published works about anxiety
Michael Ball football player
Colin Bass British bassist in the rock band Camel
Sara Blizzard meteorologist for the BBC
Thomas Crapper sanitary engineer
William Wordsworth English poet and advocate for the extension of British copyright law
Inaptronym Definition: An aptronym that is ironic rather than descriptive.

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Jaime Sin, Archbishop of Manila Elevated to cardinal, as Cardinal Sin
Don Black a White supremacist
Peter Bowler Plays batsman position in cricket
Samuel Foote Comic actor who lost a leg in a horseriding accident
Larry Playfair NHL defenseman known for his fighting
Auto-Antonym Definition: A word with multiple meanings, one of which is defined as the reverse of one of its other meanings.

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This phenomenon is called enantiosemy, enantionymy, or antilogy.

A.k.a., autantonym, contranym, contronym, antagonym, enantiodrome, self-antonym, antilogy, addad

in camera “out of the view of the public” or “photographed for the public record”
inflammable Technically means “capable of burning” but is commonly misunderstood to mean “unburnable”.
let “allow” or “prevent”
nonplussed “baffled” or “perplexed”

In North America can also mean “not disconcerted” or “unperturbed”

overlook “miss seeing something” or “a place to see something from above”
refrain “non-action” or “the repetition of an action”
strike “act decisively” or “refuse to act”
to screen “to show” or “to conceal”
unlockable “able to be unlocked” or “unable to be locked”
Autogram Definition: A sentence that describes itself in the sense of providing an inventory of its own characters.

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An essential feature is the use of full cardinal number names such as one, two, etc., in recording character counts.

Letter counts only are often recorded while punctuation signs are ignored.

A.k.a., self-enumerating sentence, self-documenting sentence

This sentence employs two a‘s, two c‘s, two d‘s, twenty-eight e‘s, five f‘s, three g‘s, eight h‘s, eleven i‘s, three l‘s, two m‘s, thirteen n‘s, nine o‘s, two p‘s, five r‘s, twenty-five s‘s, twenty-three t‘s, six v‘s, ten w‘s, two x‘s, five y‘s, and one z.

Definition and examples courtesy of “Autogram” (Wikipedia).

Charactonym Definition: Names that tell the reader something about the respective character: a single character trait, their looks, their behavior, a reference to a historical namesake with whom they have something in common, etc.

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In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Ernest’s given name sounds exactly like the adjective earnest.

Remus Lupin: Remus refers to a mythological character raised by wolves while Lupin is a variation on the Latin for wolf, lupus. Wolf Wolf

Draco Malfoy: Draco means dragon. Mal- is a prefix that means evil or bad.

Sirius Black: Sirius is the name of the dog constellation. Black Dog.

Caden Cotard was the name of a character in the movie Synecdoche, New York, a film about death, and the character’s name is based on a mental disorder in which the person thinks they are dead.

Think of all the romantic heroines named Charity, Hope, etc.

Spike, the character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Mistress Quickly

Sir Toby Belch.
Snow White

Chronogram Definition: A phrase in which constituent letters also express a number.

Replacing one or more letters in a title with a number vaguely resembling the letter or otherwise related.

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“My Day Closed Is In Immortality”

An epitaph for England’s Queen Elizabeth I in which the first letter of each word corresponds to a Roman numeral, MDCIII, which translates as 1603, the date of Queen Elizabeth I’s death.


The title of the 1995 crime thriller Seven.

Definition and examples courtesy of Daily Writing Tips’ “10 Types of Wordplay.

Emphasis You absolutely MUST visit the post, “Rhetorical Device: Emphasis” to learn so very much more.
Epanadiplosis Definition: The same word is used both at the beginning and at the end of a sentence.

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“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”

Laugh with those that laugh, and weep with those that weep.

Examples courtesy of Your

Epanalepsis Definition: The same word or phrase appears both at the beginning and at the end of a clause or sentence.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Emphasis
  2. Figure of Speech
  3. Rhetorical Device

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The king is dead; long live the king.

Severe to his servants, to his children severe.

They bowed down to him rather, because he was all of these things, and then again he was all of these things because the town bowed down. – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Beloved is mine; she is Beloved.

“Control, control, you must learn control.” – The Empire Strikes Back

“A minimum wage that is not a livable wage can never be a minimum wage.” – Ralph Nader

Year chases year.

Man’s inhumanity to man.

“Common sense is not so common.” – Voltaire

“Blood will have blood.” – Shakespeare, Macbeth

An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life.

Epizeuxis Dive, dive, dive into into the post, “Rhetorical Device“, for more on epizeuxis, a.k.a., hyperzeuxis.
Hypozeuxis Writers shall delve into that emphasis. Writers shall delve into the “Word Play”. Writers shall delve into the depths of the hypozeuxis.
Epitaph Definition: Phrase or statement written in memory of a person who has died, especially as an inscription on a tombstone.

You may want to explore the post, “Word Confusion: Epigram vs Epigraph vs Epitaph vs Epithet“.

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“Here lie the bones of one ‘Bun’
He was killed with a gun.
His name was not ‘Bun’ but ‘Wood’
But ‘Wood’ would not rhyme with gun
But ‘Bun’ would.”

“Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare,
To digg þe dust encloased heare.
Blese be þe man þat spares þes stones,
And curst be he þat moves my bones.”

Shakespeare composed his own epitaph as he was worried that someone would dig up his grave.

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

“Whither thou goest, I will go.” – Bible, Ruth 1:16

This ain’t bad — once you get used to it.

He was shot, bayoneted, beaten and left for dead, but recovered and lived to be 98 years of age.

Examples courtesy of Literary, Stoneletters, and Bustle.

Homonym Set yourself to read the post, “Homonym“, and let it set deep into your brain.
Homograph It’s not read yet, but you’ll want to read the post, “Homograph“.
Capitonym Father says you should read the post, “Capitonym“, lest you father a blooper.
Heteronym Tear into the post, “Heteronym” before you shed a tear.
Monosemy You may find it lucrative to read the post, “Monosemy“.
Polysemy Take the post, “Polysemy“, take it and take a look.
Homophone Fare thee well, and thou must read that fair post, “Homophone“.
Heterograph It will take eight minutes to read the post, “Heterograph“, and it’ll be all ate up!
Language Game Definition: A way of manipulating spoken words to make them incomprehensible to those not in the know.

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Primarily used by groups, mostly children, attempting to conceal their conversations from others.
Some Languages Games include:

Anglish Definition: A name coined by Paul Jennings in 1966 when he was writing … for Punch riffed on how English would have developed without the Norman conquests…

You may want to explore The Anglish Moot, a wiki-type site composed wholly in a form of modern English without any loanwords at all. It can give you an appreciation for how many loanwords English uses on a daily basis.

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“The Banded Folkdoms of Americksland (BFA) is the most dwelt-in land in the landstretch of North Americksland. Its makeup is that of an evenly banded rike, with three branches of rike: the Leaderly, the Lawmootly, and the Lawlordly. The foremost tongue in the land is English, though some Spanish is spoken also.”

“Earthfrod is the learning of Earth’s eretide and foreblowing as shown by rocks a.s.o. in fields such as life and former loftlays.

Among its fields are:

  1. Orelifelore is the lore of olden breeds and shapes of life that lived in the forthwist, learned from the reading of bonerocks (fossils) and the siltborn rocks that witnessed olden life
  2. Sheathlore is the lore of how layers of andwork make up the Earth’s sheath – Highly ongot in this field is the Stonelore timemete (Geologic Timescale)

“To be, or not to be — that is the asking:
Whether ‘tis worthier in the mind to bear
The slings and arrows of unbound mishap
Or to take fight against a sea of worries
And by gainstanding end them. To die, to sleep —
No more — and by a sleep to say we end…” – An overbringing of Hamlet’s aside, Shakespeare, Hamlet

Definition and examples courtesy of Language Trainers.

Bushism Definition: Unconventional words, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms, the creation of neologisms, spoonerisms, stunt words, grammatically incorrect subject–verb agreement, and semantic or linguistic errors in the public speaking of former President of the United States George W. Bush.

Wikipedia: Bushism

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“I guess it’s OK to call the secretary of education here ‘buddy’. That means friend.” – Philadelphia, 8 January 2009

“One of the very difficult parts of the decision I made on the financial crisis was to use hardworking people’s money to help prevent there to be a crisis.” – Washington, D.C., 12 January 2009

“Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.” – Poplar Bluff, Missouri, 6 September 2004

“They misunderestimated me.” – Bentonville, Arkansas, 6 November 2000

“I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.” – Saginaw, Michigan, 29 September 2000

Examples courtesy of “The Complete Bushisms” by Jacob Weisberg and Wikipedia: Bushism.

Chinglish Definition: Confusing or inappropriate English translations from Chinese.

Think of the signs at the Chinese Olympics.

Check out Engrish to see the difference.

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The grass smiles to you, pleas do not trample on it.

The door has been bad. Push on the left side of the door.

We herein construction, bring inconvenience to you. please understanding!

Is your hair bringing you troubles like scurf, feeble fracture easily, withered and furcated difficult to handle, fat and greasy?

Chicken Fried Supply Weapons.

A delicious part of your military breakfast.

Fire Distinguisher

Classier than the slow burn…

The worst examples? All those help manuals for your electronics.

Definition and examples courtesy of Ferreting Out the Fun.

Dog Latin Definition: A spurious or incorrect Latin that refers to the creation of a phrase or jargon in imitation of Latin, often by “translating” English words (or those of other languages) into Latin by conjugating or declining them as if they were Latin words. (Sometimes “dog Latin” can mean a poor-quality attempt at writing genuine Latin.)

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It is more of a humorous device for invoking scholarly seriousness.

A.k.a., Cod Latin, macaronic Latin, mock Latin, Canis Latinicus

Collins Dictionary

Patres conscripti took a boat, and went to Philippi;
Boatum est upsettum, magno cum grandine venti.
Omnes drownderunt qui swim away non potuerunt.
Trumpeter unus erat, qui coatum scarlet habebat;
Et magnum periwig, tied about with the tail of a dead pig.
The conscript fathers [i.e. Senators] took a boat and went to Philippi;
The boat was upset by a great hailstorm of wind.
All drowned who could not swim away. There was a trumpeter, who had a scarlet coat,
and a great periwig, tied about with the tail of a dead pig.
camera necessaria pro usus cookare, cum saucepannis, stewpannis, scullero, dressero, coalholo, stovis, smoak-jacko; pro roastandum, boilandum, fryandum, et plumpudding mixandum, pro turtle soupos, calve’s-head-hashibus, cum calipee et calepashibus. A necessary room for the purpose of cooking, with saucepans, stewpans, scullery, dresser, coalhole, stoves, smoke-jack; for roasting, boiling, frying, and mixing plum pudding, for turtle soups, calves’-head hashes, with calipee and calipashes.
Illegitimi non carborundum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
The motto of the City Watch was originally:
“Fabricati Diem, Puncti Agunt Celeriter” – Terry Pratchett, Discworld series
Make the day, the moments pass quickly.
It devolved into:
“Fabricati Diem, Punc.”
Make My Day, Punk.
“Flickum Bicus” is a spell used in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files to light candles. Flick your Bic.

“dorkus malorkus”, an insult spoken by Bart Simpson
Engrish Definition: Confusing or inappropriate English translations from Japanese (due to their difficulty in pronouncing the letter “L”.

Check out Chinglish to see the difference.

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All your base are belong to us.” – Zero Wing

The song “Let’s Fighting Love” from “Good Times with Weapons”, South Park

The song “I’m so Ronery” from Team America: World Police

Definition and examples courtesy of Wikipedia: Engrish.

Homophonic Translation Definition: Translates the text in one language into
the same or another language AND preserves how it sounds, but doesn’t worry about retaining the original meaning.

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It also incorporates phono-semantic matching which attempts to retain the meaning AND the way it sounds in the original language.

It may also be used for humorous purpose, as bilingual punning (macaronic language). This requires the listener or reader to understand both the surface, nonsensical translated text, as well as the source text — the surface text then sounds like source text spoken in a foreign accent.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall French: “s’étonne aux Halles”

is surprised at the Market

recognize speech wreck a nice beach
French: Frère Jacques English: Frayer Jerker
chase-lounge French: chaise longue
shoepike French: choupique
bowdark French: bois d’arc

Some works by Oulipo, Frédéric Dard, Luis van Rooten’s English-French Mots D’Heures: Gousses, Rames, Louis Zukofsky’s Latin-English Catullus Fragmenta, Ormonde de Kay’s N’Heures Souris Rames: The Coucy Castle Manuscript, John Hulme’s Morder Guss Reims: The Gustav Leberwurst Manuscript (English and German Edition) and David Melnick’s “Men in Aida“.

Howard L. Chace’s Anguish Languish: “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut”
Macaronic Language Definition: Text using a mixture of languages, particularly bilingual puns or situations in which the languages are otherwise used in the same context (rather than simply discrete segments of a text being in different languages).

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It may also denote hybrid words, which are “internally macaronic”, roughly meaning: using more than one language or dialect within the same conversation.
It can have derogatory overtones, and is usually reserved for works where the mixing of languages has a humorous or satirical intent or effect.
When I came down to Glasgow first,
a-mach air Tìr nan Gall.
I was like a man adrift,
air iomrall’s doll air chall.

Authors like Carlo Emilio Gadda; the character Salvatore in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, and the peasant hero of his Baudolino; Dario Fo’s Mistero Buffo (“Comic Mystery Play”) features grammelot sketches using language with macaronic elements; and, Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai includes portions of Japanese, Classical Greek, and Inuktitut.

Definition and examples courtesy of Wikipedia: Macaronic Language.

Pig Latin Definition: A game of alterations played on the English language game. There is no connection to Latin.

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Words are formed by transposing the initial consonant sound to the end of the word and adding -ay to it.

It’s mostly used as a “code” amongst children or to converse in perceived privacy from adults or other children.

trash ash-tray plunder under-play
nix ixnay scram amscray
stupid upidstay run un-ray

Definition and examples courtesy of Latin4Everyone.

Ubbi Dubbi Definition: A language game that is a close relative of the language game Obbish. that was popularized by the 1970s PBS television show Zoom.

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Ubbi dubbi works by adding ub- before each vowel sound in a syllable with the stress falling on the ub of the syllable that is stressed in the original word.

Variations to Ubbi Dubbi include Ob, Ib, Arpy Darpy, and Iz (a.k.a. shizzolation).

PBS Kids has an ubbi dubbi generator, if you want to play.

hello hubellubo
speak spubeak
Hubba Bubba bubblegum Hububbuba Bububbuba bububbublegubum
Hi, how are you? Hubi, hubow ubare yubou?

Definition and examples courtesy of Wikipedia: Ubbi Dubbi.

Janusism Definition: The use of phonetics to create a humorous word.

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BOREneo Borneo
Lipogram Definition: A composition that deliberately avoids using a letter of the alphabet.

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Alonso Alcalá y Herrera’s Varios effectos de amor is a sequence of five novellas each eschewing a different vowel

J.R. Ronden’s La Pièce sans A (The Play Without A; French only, 1816)
Georges Perec’s La Disparition (A Void; 1969), which dispenses with e.

Ernest Wright’s Gadsby (1939) without using e.

Definition and examples courtesy of Oxford University Press’ “10 Literary Terms You Might Not Know.

Malapropism Definition: The practice of misusing words by substituting words with similar sounding words that have different, often unconnected meanings, and thus creating a situation of confusion, misunderstanding, and amusement.

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For writers, it is useful to create the sense of a character who is flustered, bothered, unaware, stupid, or confused.

A trick to using malapropism is to ensure that the two words (the original and the substitute) sound similar enough for the reader to catch onto the intended switch and find humor in the result.

Mrs. Malaprop said… What She Meant to Say
I was recently diagnosed, and I told my wife that I had Immaculate Disintegration. macular degeneration
Lead the way and we’ll precede. proceed
“He’d reached the pineapple of success.” – Archie Bunker pinnacle
He’d reached the pinnacle of Sussex. success
Sometimes, I get so contused! confused
And now, we bid you an odd fondue. adieu
“Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons.” – Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, the character Dogberry suspicious persons

Examples courtesy of Literary Devices.

Mondegreen Definition: A mishearing of a popular phrase or song lyric, was coined by the writer Sylvia Wright.

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Mondegreen Actual Lyric Credit to:
and there’s a wino down the road — I should have stolen Oreos and as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our souls “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
Everybody’s crazy ’bout a shot glass man Everybody’s crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man “Sharp-Dressed Man” by ZZ Top
you’ve got mud on your face, front disc brakes you’ve got mud on your face, a big disgrace “We Will Rock You” by Queen
I’ve got a backache from loving you I’ve got a bad case of loving you “Loving You” by Robert Palmer

Definition and examples courtesy of University of Houston.

Neologism Definition: A new word or phrase that is not yet used regularly by most speakers and writers.

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3 Types of Neologisms:

Derived Word Definition: Words that use ancient Greek and Latin phrases naturalized to match the English language.

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Derived Word Origin Meaning
Latin: copia plenty
Latin: sub under
Latin: villa villa
Transferred Word Definition: Encompasses words taken from another language and used in an adjusted form in English.

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New words come from creativity and invention, merging of existing words, and borrowing from other cultures and languages.
Transferred Word Origin Meaning
herbs French: herbes herbs
alligator Spanish: lagarto lizard
wiener dog German: wiener hot dog
Portmanteau Definition: Two or more words are joined together to coin a new word by blending parts of two or more words, but it always shares the same meanings as the original words.

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Portmanteau is different from a compound word, as a compound word can have a completely different meaning from the words that it was coined from.

A.k.a., blend word

Portmanteau Words to Blend Meaning
brunch breakfast + lunch meals
telethon telephone + marathon a difficult task using the telephone
edutainment education + entertainment enjoyable learning
britcom British + comedy It’s a funny show from Britain.
tragicomic tragedy + comedy comically disastrous
spork spoon + fork a combined utensil
fanzine fan + magazine a magazine for people with a strong interest in or admiration for someone or something
smog smoke + fog has the properties of both smoke and fog
Retronym Definition: A word created to differentiate between two words, where previously no clarification was required.

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Advances in technology are often responsible for the coinage of retronyms.
Retronym Origin Evolved with
analog watch digital watch Invention of the digital watch
acoustic guitar electric guitar Invention of the electric guitar
bicycle safety bicycle The first bicycles had a large wheel and a small one, then came bicycles that were deemed safer because they had two same-size wheels.
bicycle penny-farthing
Since the early 1900s, bicycles were expected to have two same-size wheels, and the original bicycle was renamed.
straight marriage
heterosexual marriage
marriage With the evolution of same-sex marriages
Pangram Definition: A sentence using every letter of a given alphabet at least once.

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Pangrams have been used to display typefaces, test equipment, and develop skills in handwriting, calligraphy, and keyboarding.

A.k.a., holoalphabetic sentence

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.

Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz.

The five boxing wizards jump quickly.

How vexingly quick daft zebras jump!

Bright vixens jump; dozy fowl quack.

Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow.

Definition and examples courtesy of “Panagram (Wikipedia)”.

Paragram Definition: A type of verbal play consisting of the alteration of a letter or a series of letters in a word.

A.k.a., textonym

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You’re the wurst.

Swine Lake by James Marshall is about pigs performing a ballet.

The title of a Sports Illustrated article about exercise programs for NASCAR pit crews: “Making a Fit Stop”. – Lars Anderson (2005)

Examples courtesy of About:Paragram and Deborah Dean’s Bringing Grammar to Life.

Paraprosdokian Definition: An unexpected shift in meaning at the end of a sentence, stanza, series, or short passage and is often used for comic effect.

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A.k.a., surprise ending

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech: Anticlimax
  2. Rhetorical Device: Bathos
  3. Figure of Speech: Climax
  4. Feghoot
  5. Figure of Speech
  6. Rhetorical Device
  7. Garden-Path Sentence
  8. Syllepsis
  9. Figure of Speech: Trope
  10. Figure of Speech: Verbal Irony
  11. Zeugma
“For every complex problem, there is an answer that is short, simple — and wrong.” – H.L. Mencken

“If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.” – Dorothy Parker, quoted by Mardy Grothe in Ifferisms

“If I am reading this graph correctly — I’d be very surprised.” – Stephen Colbert

“Trin Tragula — for that was his name — was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.” – Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Definition and examples courtesy of About: Paraprosdokian.

Paregmenon Definition: A general term for the repetition of a words which have the same root in a short sentence.

It is a simple and subtle way of grabbing attention, much as a hammer hitting a nail.

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It will destroy the wisdom of the wise.

Verily, you are very well verified.

Happily, happiness makes others happy too.

Society is the socialization of the unsociable.

Definition and examples courtesy of Brigham Young University and Changing Minds.

Pseudonym Definition: A fictitious name used, usually by an author, to conceal his or her identity.

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A.k.a., pen name
Pseudonym Real Name
J.D. Robb Nora Roberts
Erin Hunter Kate Cary
Cherith Baldry
Tui T. Sutherland
Gillian Phillips
Inbali Iserles
Victoria Holmes (editor)
George Sand Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin
Ellis Peters Edith Mary Pargeter, OBE, BEM
Pun Definition: A play on words in which a humorous effect is produced by using a word that suggests two or more meanings or by exploiting similar sounding words having different meanings but multiple correct interpretations.

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“Puns may be regarded as in-jokes or idiomatic constructions, as their usage and meaning are specific to a particular language and its culture”.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Homographic
  3. Homophonic
  4. Idioms
  5. Metonymy
  6. Rhetorical Device

A.k.a., paronomasia

Wikipedia: Pun

A vulture boards a plane, carrying two dead possums. The attendant looks at him and says, “I’m sorry, sir, only one carry on allowed per passenger.”

Santa’s helpers are known as subordinate Clauses.

The grammarian was very logical. He had a lot of comma sense.

She had a photographic memory but never developed it.

The two pianists had a good marriage. They always were in a chord.

I was struggling to figure out how lightning works then it struck me.

I really wanted a camouflage shirt, but I couldn’t find one.

You’re so punny.

Piers Anthony’s Xanth series.

What do you call a person rabid with wordplay? An energizer punny.

“You can tune a guitar, but you can’t tuna fish. Unless of course, you play bass.” – Douglas Adams

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” – Groucho Marx

Examples courtesy of Examples of Puns.

Antanaclasis Definition: A type of pun often found in slogans which repeats the same word, but that word will have different meanings.

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While very similar to epizeuxis, the repeated words using antanaclasis have different meanings and pop up in a sentence or passage while epizeuxis repeats the word (with the same meaning) in succession.

The benefits of using antanaclasis include:

  • Provides an exciting contrast of different meanings to the same word
  • Enhances the dramatic and persuasive impact of a piece of writing or speech by employing words with contrasting meanings and therefore increases the vocabulary as well
  • Creates comic effect when used in the form of irony and pun
  • Makes the literary text memorable due to repetition

It is used as a rhetorical device in poetry, prose and political speeches. Political leaders make use of this technique in order to persuade and draw the attention of audience.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Rhetorical Device
“I will dissemble myself in’t; and I would I were the first that ever dissembled in such a gown.” – Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

The critical word is “dissemble” and Viola is disguised and wishing she weren’t the first to act hypocritically in such a disguise.

“Viola: Save thee, friend, and thy music! Dost thou live by thy tabour?
Clown: No, sir, I live by the church.
Viola: Art thou a churchman?
Clown: No such matter, sir: I do live by the church; for I do live at my house, and my house doth stand by the church.” – Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

“Live” is the antanaclasis, as Viola asks if the clown makes a living with his drum, to which the clown replies that, no, his address is by the church, deliberately miscontruing her question. The clown then goes on to clarify that while he’s not a priest, his house is near the church, and therefore he lives by the church.

“…put out the light, then put out the light…” – Shakespeare, Othello

Othello will extinguish the candle and then he would end Desdemona’s life.

“…for many a thousand widows
Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands
Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down…” – William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act I, scene II

The Dauphin of France’s “jest” will end with the death of many Frenchmen, that mothers will lose their sons, that castles will be torn down.

“To England will I steal, and there I’ll steal”. – William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act V.

Pistol decides to flee to England and become a thief.

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” – Groucho Marx

“In America, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, Party always find you!”

You can have fun in America. In Russia, you’ll probably end up in exile.

“If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired, with enthusiasm.”

Work hard, or we’ll gladly fire you.

“Sorry, Charlie. StarKist doesn’t want tuna with good taste — StarKist wants tuna that taste good”. – StarKist Tuna commercials from 1961 to 1989

I always liked this commercial, lol. Charlie was always trying to impress the fishermen with his refinement, but the announcer always told Charlie that it’s not his discernment, but how yummy his flesh was.

“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.”

Bison try to intimidate a city in New York State while more bison intimidate yet more bison.

Examples courtesy of Literary

Antistasis Definition: The repetition of a word in a different or contrary sense. Often, simply synonymous with antanaclasis.

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May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Rhetorical Device
  3. Antanaclasis
  4. Rhetorical Device: Ploce
  5. Pun
  6. Stasis
  7. Traductio
  8. Figure of Speech: Trope

A.k.a., refractio, antanadasis

Brigham Young University; About: Antistasis

“In the stories we tell ourselves, we tell ourselves.” – Michael Martone, The Flatness and Other Landscapes

“He that composes himself is wiser than he that composes a book.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Why do so many people who can’t write plays write plays?” – James Thurber, “letter to Richard Maney”. Selected Letters of James Thurber, ed. by Helen Thurber and Edward Weeks

Examples courtesy of About: Antistasis.

Double Entendre Definition: A type of pun, it uses a word in one sense and then switches its meaning for comic effect, or simply establishes a context in which the word will have one interpretation and then uses it in another sense. Usually one of the meanings is risqué.

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Rhetorically, double entendre uses “Rhetorical Device“antanaclasis, reusing the same word or sound, but changing the meaning.

If you’re curious about creating your own double entendres, explore Christopher’s post.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Rhetorical Device

Thomas Christopher

Mountains and alcohol: the higher you are, the higher you get.

Dorothy Parker said, “If all the young women from all the Seven Sisters’ academies were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”

If you consider a reasonable mammal like the elk, once a year the females go into heat, the males start rutting, and if a male can battle past the other males and get to a female, she never has a headache, but with humans, the females never go into heat, the males are always rutting, and the females find that a major headache.

“A politician is asked to stand, wants to sit, and is expected to lie.” – Winston Churchill

“When given a choice between two evils, I typically choose the one I haven’t tried yet.” – Mae West

I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I’ll never know. – Groucho Marx

So to speak.

Examples courtesy of Thomas Christopher.

Paronomasia Definition: Using words that sound alike but that differ in meaning.

A.k.a., adnominatio, agnominatio, agnomination

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A jesting friar punned “Errans mus”. – Puttenham

Erasmus as an “erring mouse”.

A pun is its own reword.

Examples courtesy of Brigham Young University.

Rhyme Definition: A pattern of words that contain similar sounds.

  • go   show   glow   know   though

A repetition of identical or similar sounds in two or more different words.

Types of Rhyme include:

Assonance Definition: Two or more words close to one another repeat the same vowel sound but start with different consonant sounds. The repeated sound can appear anywhere in the words.

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An easy way to remember the difference between the two is that assonance begins with a vowel whereas consonance begins with a consonant.

It’s very useful in both poetry and prose. Writers use it as a tool to enhance a musical effect in the text by using it for creating internal rhyme, which consequently enhances the pleasure of reading a literary piece. In addition, it helps writers to develop a particular mood in the text that corresponds with its subject matter.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Poetic device

It is the opposite of consonance.


Men sell the wedding bells.

Go and mow the lawn.

Johnny went here and there and everywhere.

The engineer held the steering to steer the vehicle.

Consonance Definition: A consonant sound is repeated in words that are in close proximity. The repeated sound can appear anywhere in the words.

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It is the opposite of assonance, which refers to the repetition of vowel sounds in quick succession.

An easy way to remember the difference between the two is that “consonance” begins with a consonant, whereas “assonance” begins with a vowel.

Two particular types of consonance involve:

  1. Alliteration: refers to the repetition of consonant sounds, but only in the stressed part of a word
  2. Sibilance: involves the repetition of consonant sounds, but only of sibilant consonants, i.e., s, sh, and z
May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Idiom
  3. Poetic device

Many common phrases, idioms, and tongue twisters as well as famous speeches use consonance.

All’s well that ends well.

The early bird gets the worm.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

Curiosity killed the cat.

A blessing in disguise.

She sells seashells by the seashore.

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

“So I close in saying that I might have had a tough break — but I have an awful lot to live for!” – Lou Gehrig

“There were many more merry men,” Mary mused.

Alliteration Definition: Uses repeated sounds at the beginning of words to focus attention or convey an idea or emotion. Alliterative words are consecutive or close to each other in the text.

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It focuses readers’ attention on a particular section of text, creating rhythm and mood and can have particular connotations. For example, repetition of the s sound often suggests a snake-like quality, implying slyness and danger.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Appealing to the reader’s senses
  2. Figure of Speech
  3. Rhetorical Device
  4. Sound

Most alliterations are tautograms and vice versa.

Other Types of Alliteration include:

“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”

Bennie binged on buckets of big blue berries.

“Heavenly Hillsboro
the buckle on the bible belt” – Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Inherit the Wind

Creates a soft, soothing effect of the “h” sounds and the sharp, percussive effect of the “b” sounds.

“Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary;
rare and radiant maiden;
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain…
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before” – Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven

Uses alliteration by repeating w sounds to emphasize the weariness of narrator, and then r and s sounds in the second and third lines respectively. In the last two lines, d sound highlights the narrator’s hopelessness.

Paromoion Definition: A similarity of sound between words of syllables usually occurring between words in the same positions in parisonic members at the beginning (alliteration), at the end (homoioteleuton), or both at once (“euphuism).

A.k.a., paramoeon, paramoion

Croll, 242

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O Tite, tute, Tati, tibi tanta Tyranne tulisti. – Quintus Ennius, Annals
Tautogram Definition: Each word in the text starts with the same letter.

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A tautogram is different from alliteration in that a tautogram is written and visual whereas an alliteration is phonetic, sound, however, most tautograms are still alliterations and vice versa.
Crazy child came calling.

pneumatic plate

Truly tautograms triumph, trumpeting trills to trounce terrible travesties.

Todd told Tom the termite to tactically trot through the thick, tantalisingly tasteful timber.

Brilliant, because bacon bites beat bruschetta.

Definition and examples courtesy of “Tautogram” (Wikipedia).

Holorime Definition: A form of identical rhyme in which the rhyme encompasses an entire line or phrase. It may be a couplet or short poem made up entirely of homophonous verses.

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“In Ayrshire hill areas, a cruise, eh, lass?”
“Inertia, hilarious, accrues, hélas!” – Miles Kington, “A Lowlands Holiday Ends in Enjoyable Inactivity”

“Poor old Dali loped with an amazin’ raging cyst, as
poor Roald Dahl eloped with Anna-May’s enraging sisters.” – Steven F. Smith, translator

Rhyme Scheme Definition: The pattern of rhymes at the end of each line of a poem or song. It is usually referred to by using letters to indicate which lines rhyme; lines designated with the same letter all rhyme with each other.

If the alternate words rhyme, it is an a-b-a-b rhyme scheme, which means a is the rhyme for lines 1 and 3 and b is the rhyme affected in lines 2 and 4.

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An a-b-c-b Rhyme Scheme
Roses are red a
Violets are blue b
Beautiful they all may be c
But I love you b
Bid me to weep, and I will weep a
While I have eyes to see b
And having none, yet I will keep a
A heart to weep for thee b
Rhythm & Rhyme Rhyme A repetition of identical or similar sounds in two or more different words.

  • go   show   glow   know   though

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Rhythm – A strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound

Definition: Together, rhythm and rhyme refer to a recurring pattern of rhymes created by using words that produce the same or similar sounds in prose and poetry, creating a musical, gentle effect.

Combining rhythm + rhyme creates more musical lines that will be easier to remember.

The Rhythm and Rhyme Scheme
I am a teapot a
Short and stout; b
This is my handle c
And this is my spout. b
When the water’s boiling d
Hear me shout; b
Just lift me up e
And pour me out. b
One, two, a
Buckle my shoe. a
Three, four, b
Shut the door. b
Red sky at night, a
Sailor’s delight. a
Red sky at morning, b
Sailor take warning. b
Internal Rhyme Definition: The practice of forming a rhyme in only one lone line of verse and is typically constructed in the middle of a line to rhyme with the bit at the end of the same metrical line.

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There are three variations:

  1. Two or more rhyming words in the same line
  2. Rhyming words that appear in the middle of successive lines.
  3. A word at the end of a line that rhymes with a word in the middle of a successive line

A.k.a., middle rhyme

Literary Devices

“We were the first that ever burst.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

“Just turn me loose let me straddle my old saddle,
Underneath the western skies,
On my cayuse let me wander over yonder,
‘Til I see the mountains rise.” – Cole Porter, “Hollywood Canteen”

It would be good to have a hood in this weather.

I felt sad thinking of the day / That my dad left for the war.

In the end, what does it matter? / It’s all chatter, the things they say. Prosody Definition: The patterns of rhythm, sound, tempo, pitch, loudness, and meter used in poetry.

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It is an important element of language that contributes towards rhythmic and acoustic effects in a piece of writing, using such different elements as scansion, sound, pace, and meaning.

Types of Prosody:

  1. Syllabic Prosody
  2. Accentual Prosody
  3. Accentual-Syllabic Prosody
  4. Quantitative Prosody

Prosody also has multiple functions in both poetry and prose:

  • Used with syntactic phrasing, word segmentation, sentence, accentuation, stress and phonological distinctions
  • Use it to produce rhythmic and acoustic effects
  • A sentence in a given perspective expresses more than just its linguistic meanings:
    • Expressive content could be an identity of a speaker, his mood, age, sex and other extra linguistic features
    • Pragmatic content encompasses the attitude of the speaker and listener and provides a relationship between a speaker and his/her discourse
      • Reflect different features of a speaker and his utterance, emotional state, a form of utterance, presence of sarcasm or irony, and emphasis

Definition and examples courtesy of Literary

Syllabic Prosody Definition: Counts a fixed number of syllables in each line, while accent, tone and quantity play a secondary role.

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“In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
W-ith all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light…
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.” – Dylan Thomas, In My Craft or Sullen Art

An example of syllabic verse, which contains constrained or a fixed number of syllables with each line consisting of seven syllables except the final line, but does not follow a consistent stressed pattern.

Accentual Prosody Definition: Measures only the accents or stresses in a line of verse, while the overall number of syllables may vary in a line. It is very common in Germanic, old English and in modern English verses.

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what if a much of a which of a wind
gives the truth to summer’s lie;
bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun
and yanks immortal stars awry?
Blow king to beggar and queen to seem
(blow friend to fiend: blow space to time)
— when skies are hanged and oceans drowned,
the single secret will still be man…” – e.e. cummings, “what if a much of a which of a wind”

An example of accentual verse in which the number of stressed syllables is four that remain constant. They are underlined, but the syllables in each line do not remain constant and change from seven to ten.

Accentual-Syllabic Prosody Definition: Counts both number of syllables and accents in each line. We commonly find it in English poetry.

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“If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold” – Anne Bradstreet, “To My Dear and Loving Husband

An example of accentual-syllabic verse, which focuses on both the number of syllables and number of accents in each poetic line. This iambic pentameter poem is one of the best examples of accented syllabic verse, as it contains five iambs in each line and follows strictly measured syllabic pattern.

Quantitative Prosody Definition: Depends upon the duration of syllables, which can be determined by the amount of time used on pronunciation, such as a with free verse poem that consists of unmeasured lines.

Commonly found in Roman and classical Greek poetry and very rarely in English poetry.

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Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris…” – Virgil, “Aeneid

This opening line of Virgil’s poem is a classic model of quantitative prosody. Look at the stress pattern that is irregular, as this type of prosody does not have measured syllables, but it measures the meter according to duration of time to pronounce a line.

Acatalectic Definition: Having complete or full number of syllables in a poetic line.

A.k.a., ataclexis

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This stanza example…

When Sr Joshua Reynolds died catalectic
All Nature was degraded;
The King dropp’d a tear into the Queen’s Ear, acatalectic
And all his Pictures Faded.” – William Blake, “Art and Artist” hypercatalectic
Catalectic Definition: A metrically incomplete line of verse, lacking a syllable at the end or ending with an incomplete foot.

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One form of catalexis is headlessness, where the unstressed syllable is dropped from the beginning of the line.

Making a meter catalectic can drastically change the feeling of the poem, and catalexis is often used to achieve a certain effect.

Wikipedia: Catalectic

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful. – W. H. Auden, “Lay Your Sleeping Head, My LoveBrachycatalectic Definition: A line missing two syllables.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” Hypercatalectic Definition: A line of poetry having an extra syllable or syllables at the end of the last metrical foot.

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This stanza example…

When Sr Joshua Reynolds died catalectic
All Nature was degraded;
The King dropp’d a tear into the Queen’s Ear, acatalectic
And all his Pictures Faded.” – William Blake, “Art and Artist” hypercatalectic
Ischiorrhogic Definition: [Of an iambic line] A type of poetry.

Having a spondee as its second, fourth, or sixth foot.

A.k.a., broken-backed, broken-hipped

Oxford Dictionaries

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I can only find examples in Greek, and I doubt they’d translate to provide a good example in English. Sibilance Definition: Repeats “hissing”, sibilant consonant sounds, such as s (most popular), sh, ch, th, f, soft c, and z in a specific type of alliteration, mostly used in poetry.

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Sibilance is useful in creating an atmosphere, drawing the attention of readers to paint a more colorful picture of the idea of the event. Descriptive scenes can be explained more carefully by laying stress on the specific letters. In fact, the sense of repeated sounds and then the making up of different literary devices through sibilance creates further musical effects on the readers.


“Sing a Song of Sixpence”

Charming child who changed the world.

A shark sliced through the water, charging toward the shore.

As whence the sun ‘gins his reflection
Shipwracking storms and direful thunders break,
So from that spring whence comfort seemed to come
Discomfort swells. Mark, King of Scotland, mark:
No sooner justice had, with valor armed,…
But the Norweyan lord, surveying vantage,
With furbished arms and new supplies of men,…
Till seven at night. To make society
The sweeter welcome, we will keep ourselves
Till suppertime alone. While then, God be with you! – William Shakespeare, Macbeth


  1. Green indicates the sibilant words
Stanza Definition: A single, related one unit or group of lines in poetry, which forms one particular faction in poetry.

The most basic kind of stanza is usually four lines per group, with the simplest rhyme scheme a-b-a-b being followed.

Literary Devices

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The greedy paddy cat, a
Chased after the mice; b
She got so round and fat, a
But it tasted so nice.” b
Synchysis Definition: An odd form of an alternating word sequence of the form a-b-a-b.

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Typically appears in poetry, where words are rearranged such that alternate words should be read together. It asks the reader to think hard, concentrating on and reviewing the words until the pattern and so the meaning is discovered. This can be so confusing that it may be necessary to emphasize the words that go together so the reader or listener can understand better what is intended. Young man, boy old.

Golden happy ring girl.

I run and shoot, fast and accurate.

Definition and examples courtesy of Changing Minds.

Sarcasm If you can’t bothered to click over to Figure of Speech: Sarcasm, it’s your loss. Slang Definition: Informal language that continually evolves and changes and is considered to be a largely spontaneous, lively, and creative speech process typically restricted to a particular context or group of people, which begins as a way to flout standard language.

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It’s more common in speech than in writing, so it’s ideal for dialogue!

Slang can be blunt or riddled with metaphor, and often quite profound.

Many slang terms become accepted into the standard lexicon and/or are borrowed between groups, and much of it dies out.

A.k.a., jargon, argot, patois, colloquialism, cant

Slang Meaning
grass marijuana
check out look
booty butt
gig concert
Sobriquet Definition: A nickname, sometimes assumed, but often given by another.

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It usually is a familiar name, familiar enough such that it may be used in place of a real name without the need of explanation and may become more familiar than the original name.

It may apply to the nickname for a specific person, group of people, or place.

It is distinct from a pseudonym that is assumed as a disguise.

A.k.a., sotbriquet, soubriquet

Sobriquet Full Name Means
Emiye Menelik Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia “Emiye” = mother
Genghis Khan Temüjin
Mahatma Gandhi Mohandas Gandhi
Big Apple New York City
Spoonerism Definition: A phonetic mix-up.

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Spooner said… What He Meant to Say
fighting a liar lighting a fire
you hissed my mystery lecture you missed my history lecture
cattle ships and bruisers battle ships and cruisers
nosey little cook cosy little nook
a blushing crow a crushing blow
tons of soil sons of toil
our queer old Dean our dear old Queen
we’ll have the hags flung out we’ll have the flags hung out
Tom Swifty Definition: Interpreting idioms literally and creating contradictions and redundancies.

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“Hurry up and get to the back of the ship,” Tom said sternly.

“I need a pencil sharpener,” said Tom bluntly.

“Oops! There goes my hat!” said Tom off the top of his head.

“I can no longer hear anything,” said Tom deftly.

“I have a split personality,” said Tom, being frank.

These examples (and lots more) were found at Tom Swifties.

Univocalic Definition: A type of verbal play in which the writer may use only a single vowel.

A.k.a., monovocalic, homovocalic

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Richard Lederer’s The Word Circus notes that some of the longest common univocalic words use the vowel e.

September Seventh
untruthful, untrustful

Paul Hellweg’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb” from Word Ways magazine:

“Meg kept the wee sheep,
The sheep’s fleece resembled sleet;
Then wherever Meg went
The sheep went there next;

He went where she needed her texts,
The precedent he neglected;
The pre-teen felt deep cheer
When the sheep entered there.”

Howard Bergerson’s “The Haiku of the Eyes” uses only i:

In twilight this spring

Girls with miniskirts will swim

In string bikinis.

Definition and examples courtesy of Word Daze’s “September Seventh: Univocalic Day“.

Wellerism Definition: “A sentence with a speaker and a narrator; after the speaker speaks, the narrator adds commentary that undermines the sentiment of the speaker sometimes by changing the meaning of the speaker’s idea. Other times, the narrator offers description to show that, what the speaker said, may not be so true, after all.”

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“We’ll have to rehearse that,” said the undertaker, as the coffin fell out of the car.

“Everyone to his own taste,” the woman said, as she kissed her cow.

“It’s all coming back to me now,” Captain Smith remarked after he spat into the wind.

“Eureka!” Archimedes said to the skunk.

“Capital punishment,” the boy said when his teacher seated him among the girls.

“I’ve been to see an old flame,” the young man said when he returned from Vesuvius.

“I hope I made myself clear,” said the water, as it passed through the filter.

“That’s my mission in life,” said the monk, as he pointed to his monastery.

“My business is looking good,” said the model.

Definition and examples are courtesy of A.J. Mittendorf.

Zeguma Definition: A figure of speech that uses a word to modify two or more words usually so that it applies to each word in a different sense or makes sense with only one.

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A zeugma is also a form of ellipsis as it omits words(s) that are superfluous or can be understood from contextual clues, although the sense can vary in its repetition.

It often creates a witty or comical effect.

4 Types of Zeugma:
(Depends on the location of the verb that functions as the shared connector.)

  1. Diazeugma
  2. Hypozeugma
  3. Mesozeugma
  4. Prozeugma
May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Ambiguity
  3. Properly Punctuated and Grammar Explanation: Ellipsis
  4. Hypozeuxis
  5. Metaphor
  6. Paraprosdokian
  7. Pun

A.k.a., syllepsis, grammatical syllepsis, semantic syllepsis, synezeugmenon, sillepsis, silepsis, syllempsis, conceptio, conglutinata conceptio, concepcio, double supply, change in concord …with weeping eyes and hearts

The zeugma weeping modifies both objects, but the first eyes is literal; the second, figurative as the heart can’t really weep.

Margaret opened the door and her heart to the homeless boy.

The zeugma opened modifies both objects, but the first door is literal; the second, figurative as an opened heart is more surgical.

“Miss Bolo … went straight home, in a flood of tears and a sedan-chair.” – Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

The zeugma went…home modifies both objects, but the first a flood of tears is figurative; the second, literal.

She made my coffee and my day.

The zeugma is made which modifies coffee and day. In its first instance, made means preparing the coffee but the meaning shifts when applied to the second instance, made is understood to mean make an otherwise ordinary or dull day pleasingly memorable for someone.

She gave me a smile and a coffee.

The zeugma is gave which modifies smile and coffee. In its first instance, gave means she smiled at me but the meaning shifts when applied to the second instance, and gave is understood to mean handing a cup of coffee to me.

John and his license expired last week.

The zeugma is expired which modifies John and license. In its first instance, expired means John died but the meaning shifts when applied to the second instance, expired is understood to mean the license is no longer valid.

“Rend your heart, and not your garments.” – Joel 2:13

The zeugma rend modifies both objects, but the first rend is figurative; the second, literal.

“You held your breath and the door for me.” – Alanis Morissette

The zeugma is held which modifies breath and door. In its first instance, held means stop but the meaning shifts when applied to the second instance, held is understood to mean kept the door open.

“Fix the problem, not the blame.” – Dave Weinbaum

The zeugma is fix which modifies problem and blame. In its first instance, fix means solve but the meaning shifts when applied to the second instance, fix is understood to mean assign.

His boat and his dreams sank.

The zeugma is sank which modifies boat and dreams. In its first instance, sank means the boat was damaged and went beneath the surface of the water but the meaning shifts when applied to the second instance, sank is understood to mean destroyed.

Definition and examples courtesy of Brigham Young University.

Diazeugma Definition: The use of a single subject that governs several verbs or verbal constructions (usually arranged in “parallel fashion and expressing a similar idea).

It’s the opposite of zeugma.

A.k.a., diezeugmenon

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“The Roman people destroyed Numantia, razed Carthage, demolished Corinth, and overthrew Fregellae.” – Rhetorica ad Herennium, IV, xxvii.

Of no aid to the Numantines was bodily strength; of no assistance to the Carthaginians was military science; of no help to the Corinthians was polished cleverness; of no avail to the Fregellans was fellowship with us in customs and in language.” – Rhetorica ad Herennium, IV, xxvii.

“We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” – John F. Kennedy

I couldn’t get to sleep because my report wasn’t finished, my psycho neighbor was playing with his musical clapper, the handgun my mother had given me was missing, and worst of all, my Sleep Number bed’s 5-part fully adjustable electric frame was stuck at 9. (Daily Trope).

And Thisbe, tarrying in mulberry shade, / His dagger drew, and died.

“With disease physical beauty fades, with age it dies.” – Rhetorica ad Herennium

“For this reason, to dwell with us in true flesh God came; marked with the stain of our flesh he could not be; and at length those who were his in his own blood he washed.”

Examples courtesy of Rhetorical Figures.

Disjunction Definition: A type of diazeugma used when alternatives are presented to a question and are each resolved by adding a reason in “parallel fashion.

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“His evils are two: the fraud of simony, the coldness of avarice. He embraces both the one and the other, and does not abhor them.” – Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Poetria Nova, 63

“If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
If not, why then this parting was well made.” – Shakespeare, Julius Caeser

“Why should I now reproach you in any way ? If you are an upright man, you have not deserved reproach; if a wicked man, you will be unmoved.” – Rhetorica ad Herennium

“Why should I now boast of my deserts? If you remember them, I shall weary you; if you have forgotten them, I have been ineffective in action, and therefore what could I effect by words? – Rhetorica ad Herennium

“There are two things which can urge men to illicit gain: poverty and greed. That you were greedy in the division with your brother we know, that you are poor and destitute we
now see. How, therefore, can you show that you had no motive for the crime?” – Rhetorica ad Herennium

Examples are courtesy of Rhetorical Figures.

Hypozeugma Definition: Used in a construction containing several phrases and occurs when the word or words on which all of the phrases depend are placed at the end.

A.k.a., adjunction

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“Assure yourself that Damon to his Pythias, Pylades to his Orestes, Titus to his Gysippus, Theseus to his Pyrothus, Scipio to his Laelius, was never found more faithful than Euphues will be to his Philautus. – John Lyly, Euphues Mesozeugma Definition: A type of zeugma whose governing word occurs in the middle of the sentence and governs clauses on either side.

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“What a shame is this, that neither hope of reward, nor feare of reproch could any thing move him, neither the persuasion of his friends, nor the love of his country.” – Henry Peacham Prozeugma Definition: A zeugma whose governing word occurs in the first clause of the sentence.

A.k.a., protozeugma

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Lust conquered shame; audacity, fear; madness, reason.” – Cicero, The Rhetoric of Pro Cluentio, VI, 15

Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.” – Francis Bacon

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UpWords Board in Play” by Cornelius Brunson is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.