For some reason, I’ve been thinking about simpler times lately. Times when I was younger and I didn’t have a 401(k) to fret about. Times when all I had to worry about was remembering my locker combination, whether Keith Barnes liked me or not, and preparing for the English quiz Mrs. Hohertz was sure to give every Friday afternoon.
When my mind goes back to my English lessons in Mrs. Hohertz’s classroom, I can visualize the posters that she had on the walls like they were right here with me today. They had a very 1950s feel to them: the colors, the fonts, the illustrations. The posters that I remember helped me out on more than one of those Friday afternoon quizzes. Each poster focused on just a single word, and these are the ones I remember best:
- Hyperbole (hye-PER-buh-lee): The little boy on the poster was telling his mom about a fish that he caught that was “THIS BIG” while stretching his arms out as wide as they would go. Hyperbole is simply an extravagant and deliberate exaggeration. We all use them to some extent for illustrative purposes. We hear examples on TV on daily basis. (“The most dramatic rose ceremony ever.”) For writers and storytellers, hyperbole can be a great tool for getting points across.
- Onomatopoeia (on-uh-mat-uh-PEE-uh): If I remember correctly, the illustrations on the poster for onomatopoeia included a bee and a bomb, and comic-book-like words “buzz” and “boom” in bright starburst frames. Onomatopoeia is a word or group of words that imitate the very sound it is describing. So words like pop, meow and hiss are excellent examples.
- Interjection: Hey, you remember these, right? Wow! The poster on interjections in my high school English class had a bale of hay inside a church. Something you wouldn’t expect to be there. An interjection is a part of speech that, um, has no grammatical connection to anything else in the sentence. Examples include words like “oh,” “wow,” “whoa.” Filled pauses like “um” and “er” are also thought of as interjections. According to Wikipedia, the word “interjection” literally means “thrown in between” from the Latin inter (“between”) and iacere (“throw”). They are used to demonstrate strong or sudden emotion.
If you get a chance, throw some hyperbole or onomatopoeia at someone today to liven up your speech. I’m heading to the Internet to look for those posters!