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As we mentioned so far, personification is also a figure of speech – one that attempts to portray the abstract (concepts, ideas, feelings) appear more tangible and familiar. But how is this done?

Even the name of personification suggests that a ‘person’ is present in the object or matter we are dealing with in our piece of writing. We are actually trying to attach human qualities or abilities to the inanimate abstraction in question.

Note that we are not specifically mentioning that ‘there is a person’ in that inanimate object – your readers would drop your story, novel or website at reading such childish writing. Instead, we are implying a comparison and in this sense personification is sometimes perceived as a special kind of simile (if the comparison is explicit, i.e. introduced by ‘like/as’) or metaphor (if the comparison is implicit, i.e. it lets you feel the likeness).

Our member Valentina contributed with this example the other day: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” On reading this sentence you may even sense the act of birth of an invention that comes to life as the ‘person’ needs it most. Is ‘the mother’ actually the inventor? Is she rather his fruitful mind? That is for you, the reader to decipher.

And here is an example in which the personification of the trees in the poem “Birches” by Robert Frost as girls is a type of simile, introduced by the word ‘like’:

               "You may see their trunks arching in the woods
               Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground,
               Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
               Before them over their heads to dry in the sun."

Well, for those students of mine from Web in Suzhou, I shall remind you of our first ever issue of the English Corner E-zine? I thought it was how we started our e-zine, when we had our lesson on onomatopoeia… I checked and so it is  :-D

I’m bringing this up, as we are facing another similar word today – another name for personification that of prosopopoeia, which is a type of personification or impersonation previously used in classical rhetoric (which is the art of speaking which used to be an academic subject in ancient Greece and then practised in Rome as well). The origin of the word is from the Greek for “face, mask, person-making”.

Let’s do an exercise now. One can find a multitude of examples of personification in advertising.

The Michelin Man is one of the most famous in history, but test your general knowledge level by finding the names of a few characters you may have added to your family every now and then.

If I describe them to you, can you think of their names correctly? So, for example ... what's the name of a fat man made of tires?

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Well done! Keep working both on your English, and on your general knowledge, which will give you many subjects for enjoyable talks with your friends and colleagues, more practice and of course, self confidence.

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