I was not a Literature student. However, with the ‘little’ English Language we studied back in Pope John Senior High and Junior Seminary, one needed more than the head of Einstein to comprehend the many literary terms we were supposed to know before our final exams.

I had a fear for literary devices. Some were such a mouthful. Others were so hard to comprehend. From the similes to the hyperboles and what not, we knew we were in for something close to suicide. Little wonder we barely scored average grades… not even at our best.

I have come to understand these figures of speech, especially in these contemporary Ghanaian times. Literary terms have been made so easy to study. Let me take you through some of these in the Ghanaian context.

Permit me to be your English teacher for a minute. Just for laughs.

Hyperbole. This is a deliberate and obvious exaggeration used for effect. I guess our politicians are experts at the usage of this. An example is, “Our president has OVER a thousand achievements within a space of four years!” This is hyperbole to the extreme indeed.

Personification. It means a representation of an abstract quality/notion as a human being. I guess there’s no better example of personification than the supposed dwarves who are sitting on the cedi, thus, causing its depreciation!

Climax. This refers to the most intensifying event. An example of climax is when elections are due in Ghana!

Conflict. This is an opposition between ideas/characters. For instance, when politicians tell us to buy made-in-Ghana goods yet buy made-in-China chairs for parliament, we know there’s a conflict between their claims and their selfish desires. Oh yes!

Tragedy. This is a disastrous event/circumstance. In movies, for instance, tragedy is when the hero dies. In Africa, tragedy is when the politician lives! Chai.

Fable. This is a story with moral lessons, especially one where the characters are animals. An example of a fable is the GYEEDA story where the main characters (guinea fowls) flew to wherever. What an (im)moral lesson to be learnt!

Flashback. This refers to an intensively vivid memory of a traumatic experience that returns repeatedly. An example is when Ghanaians have an experience close to hypertension when they remember how billions were literally airlifted to Brazil… like some Bollywood action movie. Billions to the rescue!

Onomatopoeia. The use of words that imitate the sound associated with something. For instance, “Dum” for darkness ‘sor’ for illumination!

Euphemism. A term used in place of one which may be perceived as too harsh direct or offensive. For instance, when one says, “Politicians are smart.”

Cliché. It is an overused idea/notion/phrase/word. There are so many clichés. A good example we all can relate to is when a politician says, “Dumsor will end by December.” We call it the ‘dumsor cliché’!

Paradox. This is an absurd or contradictory statement which is true though. You want to know an example? “Americans kill themselves with guns. Ghanaians kill themselves with partisan politics!” This is a paradox.

Oxymoron. This is an expression with contrary words. “Better Ghana” expresses this so well!

Comic relief. It is a funny incidence within a serious matter. One name always comes to mind in our politics… Hon. A-k-u-a D-o-n-k-o-r! Mind you, she wants to be Ghana’s first female president… in case you forgot.

Tautology. It is a needless repetition using different words. Someone just whispered to me that “Fake politician” is a perfect example. Anyway… who am I to doubt!?

Maxim. A succinct statement which has some truth to it. “The only moment a politician tells the truth is when he begins to call his fellow politicians liars.”

Sarcasm. Remarks that mean the opposite of what they seem to say. For example, “China has the Great Walls. America has the Statue of Liberty. Ghana has errrrm… (rented) power barges!”

Simile. A comparison between two things using ‘as’ or ‘like’. For instance, “As (in)expensive as justice in Ghana.” As long as you can afford a goat…!

Alliteration. It is a literary effect achieved by using several words that begin with similar or same consonants. For instance, “Branding buses for bloated billions in Ghana!”

I wish you ‘AMERI’ Christmas.

Written by: Kobina Ansah

The writer is the Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications, Accra. (



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