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Take that term… literarily

If you enjoy any of the numerous genres of literature, such as poetry, plays, short stories, novels or songs, you are familiar with some literary terminology.

I’m not certain whether television reality shows, sitcoms or game shows are considered literature, but even they sometimes allude to certain of these terms.

Even cartoons use onomatopoeia. Though Edgar Allen Poe is remembered for words that sound similar to what they represent, such as rapping or tapping, the comic Mutts also provides examples like bonk and zonk.

If an actor asserts that his friend is seriously funny while they are dining on jumbo shrimp, this scene presents two oxymorons, apparently contradictory pairs of words.

One author known for verisimilitude was Mark Twain. The language and customs of his characters were realistic examples of the settings he portrayed.

We have all read a book or watched a television show in which foreshadowing allowed us a glimpse at or hint of what was to come.

Our boob tube may also be the source of a formal term: in medias res. This is a dramatic portrayal that dives right into the middle of a narrative. How often does a novel or show begin with a murder, only to continue with what occurred up to that crime as well as how it was solved? "The Iliad" and "Odyssey" are also examples here.

If you want to practice with a thesaurus or just learn new synonyms for old words, you might try to write a lipogram. You can write just as ideas come to you and then rewrite omitting one letter, usually a common one like e, t or a. It forces one to search for new words. Ernest Vincent Wright wrote Gadsby (1939) with no e and 50,000 words.

Speaking of teaching yourself something new, the term didactic describes works meant to instruct or that are teacher-like.

Satire is commonly seen in literature and on television when wit or derision is used to expose folly or wickedness.

If any one mode of messaging is used too often, it becomes old, dull or hackneyed. However, if it has a fresh appeal to the mind or emotions, we might be affected with its poignancy.

Hamlet’s “to be, or not to be” begins a well known soliloquy, thoughts or feelings spoken aloud without an addressee present. I bet each of you has kept emotions inside that if expressed to the open air would have spawned a soliloquy fit for William Shakespeare!

If you have already met that challenge, try one more: write a pangram (that’s right, no a in the middle). Compose a sentence or verse that contains all letters in the alphabet.

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years. If you have grammar questions, email her at ifixgrammar@charter.net