Figurative Language


In this song, we define major literary devices like metaphors, allusions and similes. If you listen closely, you'll hear that each device mentioned in the song is followed by an example. The song follows Will, who wants to be the next big emcee. He finds his signature style when he starts using wordplay in his rhymes.Will learns to contrast two ideas by juxtaposing them, and breathe life into ideas using personification. He plays with sound using onomatopoeia, assonance and alliteration. He also uses hyperbole, irony and puns to perfect his rap.

Meet Will, a youngin' with an old soul,
An emcee who wants to be the next to blow.
Imagine: he’s in a dark room in Manhattan,
Scrapping, scribbling on napkins,
Trying to make a living off rapping,
But skills, he lacked them. Nobody thought that it would happen,
Until one day, Will switches his style,
Gets deep, and his wordplay gets witty and wild.
He used to sound so embarrassing,
Now peep all the metaphors and comparisons.
His life is a highway, but he’d confess,
He has a plan but needs a GPS.
He’s using references and allusions,
A lyrical Houdini, creating illusions.
Dolphins in '72 - he won't lose,
Up by the first alarm, he’s not snoozing.

You'll be amazed by every phrase,
He will come correct with the wordplay.
Literal lines that block his way,
He will come correct with the wordplay. (x2)

Comparing with like or as, he's dropping similes,
Taking little steps like a centipede.
He's sharp like a laser, sharp as a razor,
In a night as dark as Darth Vader.
Dude can juke and adjust his position,
Contrasting two things in juxtaposition,
From weak to made, cheap to paid,
A creep to a dude who leads the way.
Using personification, what’s he doing?
Making objects and animals seem human.
The moon smiles as the city breathes,
He can feel the heartbeat of the city streets.
A live show? You really oughta see it.
Will will drop some onomatopoeia,
Words that sound like what they describe,
Now the crowd's buzzing - it’s alive.

You'll be amazed by every phrase,
He will come correct with the wordplay.
Literal lines that block his way,
He will come correct with the wordplay. (x2)

Will he exaggerate? Use hyperbole?
He’s the best ever at it, so certainly.
With assonance, vowel sounds he’s repeating,
He seems the least beat in any season.
His fans are legion, all the boneheads who bring beef
Leave with lots of lyrical lesions.
That’s alliteration - same sound sentence,
It’s commonsense - he’s calm with the confidence.
Using irony, opposite meaning,
His lines hit as soft as iron, believe him,
Good with the puns and the wordplay, oh my,
Going deep in double meanings like they were a coal mine.
Will's skills are sick like ERs, you heard of this?
Get hit and you’ll see stars like Copernicus.
If you only have one chance to shine,
You better get up, get out and go wild.

Nobody wants to read boring sentences. So every writer from Charles Dickens to Lupe Fiasco uses a technique that makes their words jump off the page. They use figurative language . Figurative language means that the words you use don't have their literal meaning, but instead are meant to be imaginative, vivid and evocative. In other words, it makes writing more interesting. This song covers 11 common types of figurative language.

See the full figurative language lesson plan with lots of examples of each type.

Life is a highway.

A metaphor is a comparison or analogy between two things or ideas to show how one of the things is similar to the other. Unlike a simile, a metaphor does not use the words "like" or "as." Will's life is a highway because it is a journey from one place to another. When the emcee mentions the plan and GPS, he is using an extended metaphor , which means that he continues with the same comparison. What do you think it means if Will's life is like a highway but he doesn't have a GPS? See more metaphor and extended metaphor examples.

He's a lyrical Houdini.

An allusion is a direct or indirect reference to something historical, literary, religious, or mythical. Allusions can help people see unique connections between two ideas. Sometimes to understand something new, it helps to reference something old. The allusion to Houdini suggests that Will is impressive, maybe even magical: Harry Houdini was a famous magician. The allusion to the Dolphins in '72 implies that Will is a winner: the Miami Dolphins had a perfect season that year. See more allusion examples.

Taking little steps like a centipede.

A simile is a comparison of two things, almost always using the words like or as. Similes create strong images in the audiences head. It is easy to imagine how sharp Will is, because he is compared to a laser and a razor. What does the simile with centipede help you to understand? See more simile examples.

He went from weak to made.

Juxtaposition is when two unlike things are positioned next to each other. Want to really show how powerful and confident Superman is? Just compare him to his shy alter-ego, Clark Kent. Juxtaposition is used to highlight the difference between opposites. What do the juxtapositions, "weak to made" and "cheap to paid" tell you about Will? See more juxtaposition examples.

The moon smiles.

When an author gives objects, concepts or animals human characteristics, emotions or abilities, that's personification . It's easy to remember the definition because the word has "person" in it. Personification can make non-human objects and ideas more relatable. What sort of image do you get of the city from the line, "The moon smiles, as the city breathes"? See more personification examples.

The crowd is buzzzzzzzing.

Onomatopoeia is a scary term for some of the simplest words around: Buzzzzzz. Bam! Pow! Ker-plop. It's the name for words that sound like what they describe. They are the classic sound effect words that you see in comic strips. When the emcee says that the crowd is buzzing, the word "buzz" helps you to really hear the crowd. And that's the magic of onomatopoeia.

He's the best ever!

Hyperbole is a purposeful exaggeration or overstatement. Even though the statement might not be exactly true, hyperbole can create emphasis or also make something sound funny. Rappers love hyperbole; it lets them claim that they are the best you've ever seen, the greatest rhymer in the universe, etc. (Except sometimes, they don't think it's hyperbole). See more hyperbole examples.

He seems the least beat in any season.

Assonance is the smoothest, coolest, loosest literary term on the block. It is the repetition of vowel sounds in words that are close together, and it is sometimes known as "internal rhyme" or "slant rhyme." In this line, we've highlighted the assonant vowel sounds: H e s ee ms the l ea st b ea t in any s ea son. Can you find the assonance in the next two lines of the song? See more assonance examples.

Boneheads who bring beef leave with lots of lyrical lesions.

Alliteration is assonance's consonant cousin. It's the repetition of sounds, especially initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words. Alliteration can help connect ideas, as well as make sentences sound memorable or musical. The repeated "L" sound in "leave with lots of lyrical lesions" is alliteration. "Lyrical lesions" isn't literal either. A lesion is a bruise. But Will's challengers aren't actually getting bruised, their getting their egos bruised by his words. See more alliteration examples.

His lines hit as soft as iron?

When you use verbal irony , you say one thing, but you actually mean the opposite. It can take the form of sarcasm, overstatement or understatement. Describing Kobe Bryant as "not a bad basketball player" is irony. Irony is also when the opposite of what you expect actually happens. "Soft as iron" is ironic because you don't expect iron to be soft. "Small as a giant" is another example.

Get hit and you'll see stars like Copernicus.

When you make a pun, you're exploiting the multiple meanings of words that sounds alike but have different meanings. The line, "Going deep in double meanings like they were a coal mine," makes a pun on the word "deep." Can you find the puns in the next two lines of the song? Which words have double meanings? See more pun examples.

Want to step up your game even more? Try some metonymy and oxymorons , too.

"His life is a highway" is an example of...
"A lyrical Houdini" is an example of...
"In a night as dark as Darth Vader" is an example of...
"From weak to made" is an example of...
"The moon smiles as the city breathes" is an example of...
"Now the crowd's buzzing" is an example of...
"He's the best ever at it" is an example of...
"He seems the least beat in any season" is an example of...
"Leave with lots of lyrical lesions" is an example of...
"His lines hit as soft as iron" is an example of...
"Will's skills are sick like ERs" is an example of...

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