The Eviction of Figures of Speech

July 22, 2022 by in category Write From the Heart by Veronica Jorge tagged as , , , with 8 and 2
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The current trend in writing is to tread carefully when using figurative language because descriptions may be offensive, such as comparing people with foods. So, even though my complexion is cappuccino and my eyes are almond-shaped, I’m not allowed to say that; even about my own self. It’s considered feeding a stereotype. In the Caribbean, we often made jokes by claiming, “I’m not really brown, I just stayed in the sun too long.”  Or, “My hair’s not really kinky, it’s the humidity.”

From time immemorial, (I’m not really saying that time is old. Experienced perhaps?), people have been all colors, shapes, and sizes. Writers, artists and photographers capture what they see. Okay, maybe some artists were punished if the sovereign didn’t like how they were depicted, but a photo doesn’t lie. Yeah, that’s really you. Though nowadays you can doctor it up in photoshop.

It would seem that one may no longer describe characters as ‘cute as a button,’ ‘cool as a cucumber,’ ‘mean as a junkyard dog,’ ‘thick as thieves’, or ‘slow as molasses.’

Although, I don’t think the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz would be offended if I called him a stuffed shirt ‘cause he was. And Jacob Marley will forever remain ‘as dead as a doornail.’

When we order coffee, do we no longer ask for a ‘short’ or ‘tall’?

The characters writers create are fictional. Figurative Language: metaphors, similes and personification, show the reader how the character perceives themselves and/or how they are perceived by others. All of which help the reader to understand the conflicts and motivations in their lives that cause them to act as they do. Descriptive language is also the artistic palette that allows readers to see the characters.

Mirror, mirror on the wall. We are who we are. When did we become so sensitive and easily offended?

In our overzealousness to be politically and diversely correct, we risk creating flat, unrealistic and unbelievable characters that by page five are dead on arrival.

Sometimes I wonder who is this collective that wants to do away with metaphors, similes and personification? As in the Wizard of Oz, I would like to draw back the curtain to reveal the ‘all-powerful’ entity controlling the literary world.

I don’t care what anyone says, the truth is the truth. My grandfather was black as tar, my father thin as six o’clock, my best-friend cackled like a chicken, my aunt nattered like a monkey, my uncle snored like a chainsaw.

And the world really is round, no matter how flat ‘they’ think it is.

See you next time on August 22nd!

Veronica Jorge

Author Bio
Author Bio
Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York. Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.

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Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York. Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.
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  • Sharon Bonin Pratt says:

    Thank you, Veronica, for an astute article to remind writers to be thoughtful when describing characters, to capture their personalities, their strengths or weaknesses within their features without resorting to insulting stereotypes.

  • Standing ovation! Wonderful piece, Veronica. I have had politically correct readers take me to task for these things. But if writers lose the right to their observations and their art we might as well pack it in. Well done. Thank you so much.

  • James Talbot says:

    Hi Veronica,
    what a delightful little essay.
    The thought of omitting colour and colourful description from any form of writing would be as bland as those who suggest such an action.
    Without doubt… I’m as happy as a lark:)

    • Veronica Jorge says:

      Hi James, Thank you for your encouraging words. And your ending, ‘happy as a lark.’ 🙂

  • Neetu Malik says:

    Excellent points, Veronica. The extent to which we have become sensitive has become absurd, I think. But the extent to which we have become insensitive is also absurd!

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