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FIGURATIVE EXPRESSIONS.

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CHAPTER I.

TROPES.

1. Literal and Figurative Meaning.-THE meaning first given to a word is called its literal meaning. Thus the literal meaning of head is that part of the body containing the brain. The literal meaning of body is the whole physical structure of an animal.

A meaning different from the first, and yet suggested by the first on account of a similarity, is called a figurative meaning. Thus the word head may mean a commanding man in a company; it may mean the first object in a collection, as the first in a column of figures, or the starting-place of a fountain or stream. The head of this chapter is "Tropes." Body may mean an army, a convention, a parliament, the principal part of a discourse or of a structure. Soul may mean the purpose or the idea, as the soul of this enterprise is personal ambition.

2. The Foundation of Tropes.-The figurative use of words is always founded upon a similarity between the two objects, or the two thoughts, which the same word is employed to express, so that a person who understands the literal meaning of the word will also readily perceive the figurative meaning, though he never heard it employed in that sense before. Thus

in the expression, "The President is the head of the Government," any one who knows the meaning of words will see the sense to be, "The President sustains a relation to the other men in the Government like the relation of a head to the other parts of the body-more conspicuous and commanding."

3. Definition. Tropes are single words, used figuratively or not, in their literal meaning.

The word trope is from a Greek word which signifies turning, and indicates that the word, called a trope, is turned around out of its first position or meaning. Tropes are divided into two classes-Synecdoches and Metonymies.

4. Synecdoches.—A Synecdoche is a trope in which a word is used to express a thing that differs from its original meaning only in degree, and not in kind.

"Give us our daily bread." Bread here means food; but bread originally has a part of the meaning of food -certain kinds of food being called bread. "He bartered his soul for gold"-gold here standing for wealth, of which literally it is only a part.

5. Metonymies.—A Metonymy is a trope in which a word is used to express a thing differing from its original meaning in kind.

"Addison was smooth, but Prescott smoother." Here Addison means the writings of Addison; smooth means pleasing to the ear. Both words are metonymies.

Always respect old age”—a metonymy for aged people. "When speaking in a deliberative assembly, always address the chair"-a metonymy for the man who, as president, occupies the principal seat, as the

USEFULNESS OF TROPES.

president's chair.

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Metonymies are, it will be seen, a little bolder than Synecdoches.

6. Frequency of Tropes.—Tropes are of frequent occurrence in all writings.

Sometimes the names of animals are used for men, as "Go tell that fox!" How much more expressive than "Go tell that crafty man!"

One inanimate thing is made to stand for another. "We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses "—that is, they are so numerous as to suggest a cloud which shuts out the light of the sun. "The city was overwhelmed in a deluge of fire."

7. Tropes must be Employed.-Tropes are absolutely indispensable as a part of the material of every author. If words were confined to their first meaning, they would be far too few to express the thoughts of men. If every idea had a word, no mortal memory could command sufficient material to express the thoughts of a cultivated mind. Words, like coins of money, must be made to represent successively different objects, for our convenience.

If we examine almost any written production, we shall find many tropes which can not be removed without leaving what remains a useless heap of ruins. Let us analyze, for illustration, the opening sentences of the Preface to Bancroft's "History of the United States:"

"I have formed the design of writing a History of the United States from the discovery of the American Continent to the present time. As the moment arrives for publishing a portion of the work, I am impressed more strongly than ever with a sense of the grandeur and vastness of the subject; and am ready to charge myself with presumption for venturing on so bold an enterprise."

All the words italicized in the above extract (and indeed several others) are tropes. Form meant originally to shape, as with a knife or other instrument. The shoemaker forms a shoe. Design meant originally a plan or map; discovery was the process of uncovering, as potatoes are uncovered to be taken from the ground; impressed originally meant pressed upon, as the ground is pressed upon by a falling stone; subject is something placed beneath, as a mat to stand upon; presumption is the act of taking too soon, as plucking fruit before it is ripe, or taking an object before our turn, or the time allotted to us; an enterprise is something undertaken, has no life, and can not be bold.

If we find so many tropes in a few lines of unimpassioned prose, what may we expect in poetry?

"So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan that moves

To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death;

Thou go not like the quarry slave at night,

Scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
Around him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."

Let each of the italic words in the above be carefully examined, and the literal and figurative meanings be compared.

8. Terms to express Mental Qualities and Actions all Tropes. Indeed it becomes evident, by careful examination, that nearly if not quite all the language employed to describe the mind and mental action is

EMPLOYMENT OF TROPES.

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figurative. The stock of words first used by man was small, and described only material objects and changes and phenomena. As men gradually advanced to consider and explain mental objects and actions, instead of inventing new words to express them, they used old terms in a new sense. They were enabled to do this by the fact that there is a mysterious analogy between matter and mind, and between material and mental operations; an analogy admirable, and that can not be accidental, which shows that God has made material and spiritual things to exist together and illustrate each other. Neither can be properly understood without studying the other. Language links them together. Physics must always precede metaphysics. Rhetoric embraces the presentation of both.

9. The original Meaning of many Tropes lost.-Nearly if not quite all of the terms now used to express mental properties and actions were originally confined to material objects and operations. But inasmuch as the English language is a modern language, and is made up largely of words transferred from other languages, the most of the words used to describe mental facts and actions have never been used in their literal meaning in the English language. The first meaning of the words learned by those who speak only the English language is that which they now bear, though they were once employed in other languages in a lower sense.

We give a few specimens of this kind of words. Reflect, literally, to throw back, as a mirror reflects

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