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English Stylistics Class 2014. Periphrasis, Euphemism, Hyperbole, Understatement.


Last week we discussed about Periphrasis, Euphemism, Hyperbole, Understatement.

Periphrasis is a stylistic device that consists in the renaming of an object by a phrase that brings out some particular feature of it. Rendering a purely individual perception of the object the device can be decipherable only in context. If a periphrastic locution is understandable outside the context, it is not a stylistic device but merely a synonymous expression.

Divisions of Stylistic Periphrasis:

Logical - based on one inherent properties or perhaps a passing feature of the object described.

Example: “the object of his admiration” (pertaining to “love”)

Figurative – based either on metaphor or metonymy, the keyword of the collocation being the word used figuratively.

Example: “the punctual servant of all work” (pertaining to “the sun”)



Euphemism masks a rude or impolite expression but conveys the concept clearly and politely.

Here are some particularly amusing examples, except where downright offensive:

· If you are offered a career change or an early retirement opportunity, a career or employee transition, or you are being involuntarily separated, or if personnel is being realigned or there is a surplus reduction in personnel, or the staff is being re-engineered or right sized, or if there is a workforce imbalance correction then: You’re fired!

· You aren’t poor, you are economically disadvantaged.

· You aren’t broke, you have temporary negative cash flow.



A hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration used to make a point.

Common Examples of Hyperbole:

· My grandmother is as old as the hills.

· Your suitcase weighs a ton!

· She is as heavy as an elephant!

· I am dying of shame.

· I am trying to solve a million issues these days.


He's got tons of money.


I had a ton of homework.



An understatement is a figure of speech employed by writers or speakers to intentionally make a situation seem less important than it really is.

Examples Of Understatement:

· "It's a bit yellow" - while describing a very yellow canary.

· "There is some music by Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony" - while describing Beethoven's famous work.

· "The desert is sometimes dry and sandy" - While describing the driest desert in the world.

· "It is just a little cool today" - when the temperature outside is 5° below zero.

· "The food was tolerable" - on the food that was prepared by the best chef in the world.

· "The cars drove at a fair clip" - while watching a car race.


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