Figurative language and figures of speech are used to evoke emotion and to imply meanings in writing by means of making comparisons and allusions to familiar objects and ideas that can help a reader to relate to what the author is trying to say.
Alliteration is a figure of speech that is related to onomatopoeia in that it involves the sense of sound. For an author, representing sounds with words can be quite difficult to do effectively. Alliteration refers to a group of words that start with the same consonant sound. An example of alliteration is “Charlie carefully counted coins,” where the “C” sound is repeated throughout the phrase. Not only do alliterative words portray sounds and engage a person’s auditory senses, but they can also be used to emphasize groups or words and to provide moods and connotations to provide greater insight into an author’s words.
Alliteration is use frequently in prose in order to emphasize a phrase or group of words. One way in which alliterative words do this is through the visual look of the words. A group of words that starts with the same letters is quite noticeable and stands out against the rest of the text. Alliterative words are also aurally distinct and will be quickly noticed as someone reads the phrase to himself or out loud. Knowing that these phrases stand out against the rest of the body of the text allows authors to place important ideas and messages in strategic places throughout the writing. A common example of this is in movie titles, persuasive writing, and newspaper headlines. These phrases are attention grabbing and roll off the tongue easily, allowing them to remain in the memory of the reader for a long time.
Although alliteration is used often in prose, its use really shines in poetry. In poetry, an author is freer to use words and phrases to evoke emotions and ideas on a more esoteric level. In the English language, certain consonant sounds are reminiscent of particular ideas. For example, the “S” sound recalls the hissing sound that a snake makes with its tongue. If a poet is writing a poem about a snake or a serpent, he may make use of words beginning with the letter “S” to reinforce this idea. An “H” sound is similar to a hush and can be used to make the reader feel a sense of calm and quiet. The author can also use these consonant sounds more literally, using phrases that mimic the sounds and feelings that some actions create. For example, the phrase, “crumbly cookie,” makes use of the hard “C” sound that emphasizes the hardness of the cookie and its brittleness.
Writing is about conveying messages and stories and in order to do so, authors frequently use figurative language and figures of speech to better relate to their readers. Alliteration is a powerful tool that can add emphasis to phrases, evoke sounds, and provide insight into an author’s words.
Alliteration is derived from Latin’s “Latira”. It means “letters of alphabet”. It is a stylistic device in which a number of words, having the same first consonant sound, occur close together in a series.
Consider the following examples:
- But a better butter makes a batter better.
- A big bully beats a baby boy.
Both sentences are alliterative because the same first letter of words (B) occurs close together and produces alliteration in the sentence. An important point to remember here is that alliteration does not depend on letters but on sounds. So the phrase not knotty is alliterative, but cigarette chase is not.
Common Examples of Alliteration
In our daily life, we notice alliteration in the names of different companies. It makes the name of a company catchy and easy to memorize. Here are several common alliteration examples.
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Best Buy
- Life Lock
- Park Place
- American Apparel
- American Airlines
- Chuckee Cheese’s
- Bed Bath & Beyond
- Krispy Kreme
- The Scotch and Sirloin
We also find alliterations in names of people, making such names prominent and easy to be remembered. For instance, both fictional characters and real people may stand out prominently in your mind due to the alliterative effects of their names. Examples are:
- Ronald Reagan
- Sammy Sosa
- Jesse Jackson
- Michael Moore
- William Wordsworth
- Mickey Mouse
- Porky Pig
- Lois Lane
- Marilyn Monroe
- Fred Flintstone
- Donald Duck
- Spongebob Squarepants
- Seattle Seahawks
Alliteration Examples in Literature
From Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
“The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.”
In the above lines we see alliteration (“b”, “f” and “s”) in the phrases “breeze blew”, “foam flew”, “furrow followed”, and “silent sea”.
From James Joyce’s “The Dead”
“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
We notice several instances of alliteration in the above mentioned prose work of James Joyce. Alliterations are with “s” and “f” in the phrases “swooned slowly” and “falling faintly”.
From Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”
“Up the aisle, the moans and screams merged with the sickening smell of woolen black clothes worn in summer weather and green leaves wilting over yellow flowers.”
Maya gives us a striking example of alliteration in the above extract with the letters “s” and “w”. We notice that alliterative words are interrupted by other non-alliterative words among them but the effect of alliteration remains the same. We immediately notice alliteration in the words “screams”, “sickening smell”, “summer”, “weather” and “wilting”.
From William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” (prologue to Act 1)
“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes;
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.”
This is an example of alliteration with the “f” and “l.” in words “forth, fatal, foes” and “loins, lovers, and life”.
Percy Bysshe Shelley’s (English Romantic poet) “The Witch of Atlas” is a famous poem that is full of examples of alliterations. Just a few of them are “wings of winds” (line 175), “sick soul to happy sleep” (line 178), “cells of crystal silence” (line 156), “Wisdom’s wizard. . . wind. . . will” (lines 195-197), “drained and dried” ( line 227), “lines of light” (line 245), “green and glowing” (line 356), and crudded. . . cape of cloud” (lines 482-3).
Function of Alliteration
Alliteration has a very vital role in poetry and prose. It creates a musical effect in the text that enhances the pleasure of reading a literary piece. It makes reading and recitation of the poems attractive and appealing; thus, making them easier to learn by heart. Furthermore, it renders flow and beauty to a piece of writing.
In the marketing industry, as what we have already discussed, alliteration makes the brand names interesting and easier to remember. This literary device is helpful in attracting customers and enhancing sales.