Trope

Okay. I’ve become lazy: my last few posts (less the beer map) have all been about words… But I just love words. I obsess over them; they’re earworms of a sort, rolling around in my brain and my mouth; thrown down on the board while playing Scrabble.

I pulled trope (a term I’ve heard/read, but not thoroughly understood) from this excellent article on criticism in the New Yorker. The definition following is for a literary trope.

trohp /troʊp/

Via Wikipedia: A literary trope is the use of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning. The term trope derives from the Greek τρόπος (tropos), “turn, direction, way”, related to the root of the verb τρέπειν (trepein), “to turn, to direct, to alter, to change”.

Rhetoricians have closely analyzed the great variety of “turns and twists” used in poetry and literature and have provided an extensive list of precise labels for these poetic devices. Some examples include: metaphor, irony, oxymoron, hyperbole and synecdoche.

Since the 1970s, the word has also come to mean a commonly recurring motif or device, a cliché. However, there has been some push back towards trope being a synonym for cliché and it is now used to denote something that, while similar in definition, does not carry the stigma that cliché currently does (i.e., a trope has not been done to the point of exhaustion, at which point it would become a cliché). Therefore, this meaning corresponds rather to the literary topos. It can mean specifically a literary technique, plot device, or stock character, or more generally a stereotype.

Photo: Thomas Hawk

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