Don't take my figurative language literally

Do we all understand what figurative language is and how it differs from literal language? Well the distinction is as clear as the nose on your face and, moreover, as easy as pie...figuratively speaking. Getting the point is like a walk in the park. Got it yet?

It's often very colourful, and often useful, but mostly relies upon knowledge of past phrases and idioms. I have noticed time and again that young adults have no idea what I am saying if I use various catch phrases. In fact some get dog gone nasty.

Something in the current 20-30 year old mentality seems to believe that it's literal or nothing. This leads me to the conclusion that their use of colour in language won't extend much beyond characters from the latest video game or contractions they've picked up from commercials and internet chat. Essentially the figurative form in that generation seems to have bit the dust.

Literal may win out in everyday speech, but please, not in writing recreationally. Taking things literally seems to have its limitations, but those proposing it’s the only way never care to acknowledge this.

The mere fact that English is involved means that there is a built-it vagueness. The meaning of even literal statements can be changed by varying punctuation, grammatical errors, or the raising of an eyebrow, or turn of a cheek. English isn’t perfect, and holding steadfast to speaking literally doesn’t make it so. Oooppsss, that’s from Old English.


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We want to be aware of this phenomenon with respect to children writing short stories. Do we suggest they inject figurative language or not? Basically, how could they do it? We would have to write each piece for them.

They don't know where such phrases come from. They may someday if they get curious. I would love to be a fly on that wall. To learn a little more about the meaning behind our language have a look at the Etymology of common phrases.

To help the kids, we can review compositions and soften the literal language whenever possible. For one thing, literal speech and writing is extremely boring. It contains no flowery expressions lest they cross over to figurative language. This is not writing!

Creative writing is a flow of emotion an imagery. It cannot be restrained by countless rules only to be contradicted and torn apart. That it exists explains how one audience likes one thing while another audience likes something else. Even why poetry and art survive.

Allow figurative language, especially new, original content, to be explored by your young writers. Creativity is like the gift of a wild pony. It must remain unbridled and free to roam.

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