ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Alliteration - makes poetry out of prose

Updated on March 21, 2013

And Songs out of Speeches

Have you noticed J K Rowling's extensive use of alliteration? That figure of speech must be one of the many tricks up her sleeve. Here are some examples for you from her:

1. ...flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four.

2. ...he had hidden himself behind a large hydrangea bush...

3. ...vanished from view before Uncle Vernon's voice...

4. ...smoking on street corners and throwing stones at passing cars

5. Eyes streaming, he swayed, trying to focus on the street to spot the
source of the noise, but he had barely staggered upright...

6. ...resisted the temptation to tie his trunk to his broomstick and set off

7...hiding in flowerbeds in the hope of hearing something


All the above were from the first few pages of the Order of the Phoenix. Did you notice the recurring sounds? That's alliteration. Read the lines aloud and you will see that prose can take on a lyrical quality when such figures of speech are employed. The last example from Rowling, also has rhyme which is alliteration at the end of words and lines: hiding, hearing, something. Alliteration normally occurs, or is used, for first syllables, but not always. Though some call them 'front rhymes.'

"The sibilant sermons of the snake as she discoursed upon the disposition of my sinner's soul seemed ceaseless." Gregory Kirschling, The Gargoyle.

Here are two clever tricks combined. Apart from the shameless alliteration, there is onomatopoeia...read the line aloud please. When you read it aloud, you would appear to speak in parseltongue like Harry Potter! You hiss, due to the profuseness of the sibilants in that sentence. Profuseness of the sibilants in that sentence? Horrors, I seem to have been infected too.

J K Rowling Photo: Sjhill (Steven Hill) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Sjhill
J K Rowling Photo: Sjhill (Steven Hill) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Sjhill

Whomping Willows and Dudley Dursley

In the humourous tradition of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, J K Rowling gives many of her characters alliterative names: Dedalus Diggle, Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff... These lend the characters a spoof-like, stylized quality, and, of course, make them funny. Methinks she overindulges in them, though she gives readers a lot of fun.

Aliiterative names make the characters unreal and flat, reminding me that I'm in a story, a farce, not in real life. Just when I get really lost in that world. But she is wise enough not to give her important characters such names. Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley... They are fleshed out characters, real persons, you know.

Tongue Twisters and Tennyson's Treats

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. That's one of the earliest examples of alliteration I picked up and a tongue twister. And this one: Betty Botter bought a bit of butter...

Alfred Tennyson was known to spend hours and sometimes days to get a line just right. Just right and without the strain and pain showing. Check this out:

Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet
Myriads of rivulets, hurrying through the lawn,
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.

Close your eyes and repeat the lines and you can see the rivulets hurrying through the lawn and hear the bees hum. Those lines are the last lines of his Come down, O Maid.

That's not overuse or misuse of alliteration, since it is verse, and contributes to an onomatopoeiac experience. We have to restrain ourselves in prose, and be very, very careful when we want to convey seriousness.

That is the warning implied: Overdo your alliteration, and your prose becomes unreal and frivolous, twisting the tongues of your readers to the bargain. But use it wisely, along with rhyme or onomatopoeia and your writing can be set to music.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      3 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you for your kind words, Vocal coach, Mekenzie, Dolores and Peggy! And for reviving an old hub! :)

      I used the term alliteration loosely to include assonance, but puritans will tell you that alliteration is the term used for sounds at the beginning of words. But they serve the same purpose, so forgive me.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have not read any of the Harry Potter books but did catch one of the movies after it was shown on television. I never gave it thought that alliteration was used so freely, but you are correct. Interesting!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      3 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Though I never read any of the Potter series, I've always meant to. J K Rowling created several kinds of magic with her books. It apparently worked quite well! I wonder if that alliteration gave kids a hint of books they had read earlier, the picture books where they played with language to capture a child's interest. Very interesting hub here. I've got a copy of Harry Potter somewhere...

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 

      3 years ago from Michigan

      Kenny, Glad to have come across this hub today. You are a skilled, observant and educated writer. I think I will learn from you.

      I love when alliteration is crafted in such a way to open the senses enabling them to enter a scene with keen awareness of scents, sounds, and sights.

      Thank you for a glimpse into alliteration's ability to make poetry out of prose.

      Nice to meet you - look forward to reading more.

      Mekenzie

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Thank you for teaching me the meaning of aliteration. Been guilty at times I fear. Great information. Will share!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      8 years ago from Chennai

      Hugs, lots of them, G-Ma! :))

      CP, alliteration abounds in your comment! :D

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 

      8 years ago from Vermont, USA

      Kenny, a hugely humorous hub on a salient subject...sorry!

      I tend to lean toward alliteration in much of my writing and have to consciously tone it down on occasion. When it compliments the construction and sweetens the sound alliteration serves to follow Shakespeare's direction: Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounce it to you, trippingly off the tongue.

      I think you both have something there.

      CP

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      "Aliiterative names make the characters unreal and flat, reminding me that I'm in a story, a farce, not in real life. Just when I get really lost in that

      world

      To be fair to the world, I mean. And to your self".

      Facebook brought me back to you...you rascal..the kids must be growing up so quickly. and I so Love your work...am sure they are as handsome as you...from what I have seen..give the Mrs.my love and Know I think about you often......and hope you feel it.:O) Hugs G-Ma

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      8 years ago from Chennai

      thanks, Moulik!

    • Moulik Mistry profile image

      Moulik Mistry 

      8 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

      It is very interesting, there is good lesson for everybody...

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Aw, Linda, I wish all my readers were like you. :))

    • profile image

      Linda Myshrall 

      9 years ago

      I love these hubs where I learn something... or am re-introduced in a non-snoozy way to something I learned a long time ago. I bet you have more fun stuff in your hub collection- I'm off to snoop.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      LOL Barry, your comment is a good example for alliteration!

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 

      9 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Aliteration always allows one to make a statement that one is careful about choosing catchwords...

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      heya, Iðunn, I'm not sure about one having a fate either. Maybe that is a karma you chose for yourself.

      Great to 'meet' you again, Isabella! :)))))

      Thanks for the compliment. Yes, people complain about how observant I am. :D

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 

      9 years ago

      Love how observant you always are, Kenny.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      9 years ago

      heya, Kenny, I suspect if one has a Fate that one is mine.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      But don't lose yourself too much in beauty, Iðunn, as the world needs people like you to speak against its ugliness. :)

      Kind Madam Bee, thank you. I am a reader first and dissector or analyst second, and I do that only to improve my craft. Happy sewing, and good that you listen to its music too. :)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Kenny now that is what I call dissecting a book down to its molecules. I have read and reread and listened to on audio-books the Harry Potter series dozens of times (as its one of my favorite to sew by) and never did it occur to me to look for alliterations. I think you have a point though about the minor characters being spoof-like and flat compared to the main ones.

      On that note I have a lot of sewing to do...I'm off into my favorite magical world and this time I will listen for alliterations.

      Awesome hub as always kind Sir

      regards Zsuzsy

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      9 years ago

      and that, my friend, is why I always seek you out. yeah, I get lost sometimes. possibly I should go browse art dot com for a bit and get lost in that beauty as an antidote.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Yes, the world has a lot of sadness and its share of evils, but why should we only indulge in them and ignore the joys and good things? To be fair to the world, I mean. And to your self.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      9 years ago

      I suspect I'd rather be in your funhouse than mine. I'm in full sulk. all my gods are getting mixed up together and overlapping one another and I'm seeing dead people in the mirrors with me.

      I've got to stop watching dark docos, I think, at least for a while.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Only if you want to find the exit. I don't mind remaining in the funhouse. :)

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      9 years ago

      being popular is the main reason I avoid some films and books, LOL. you know how elitist I can be that way.

      I'm lost in a world of parralels at the moment. It's like being in the mirrored funhouse at the fair and not being able to find the exit. bah. glad you made a hub so I could get a glint of light from the outside and know which direction to go.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      I have to read everything that's popular. :)

      But yes, hello, hello! :)

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      9 years ago

      I admit to never reading or watching Harry Potter. :( I can't comment to that. Glad to have an excuse to say hello though.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Hey there, Old Friend! :)

      My only complaint with the Harry Potter series is that she makes it too spoof-like at times. Spoof versions of technology and names like this.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      9 years ago

      great hub. alliteration yes, but I look for parallels too and an underlying truth. interesting point about alliteration in names making fictional characters two dimensional. I agree.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Oh no, no, not silly of you. We prosaic people, who don't do proper poetry, try to copy as much as we can from poetic devices. And we have been doing it for ages. :)

    • Randy Behavior profile image

      Randy Behavior 

      9 years ago from Near the Ocean

      I look for it and use it in poetry. Never thought about it outside of that. Now that seems silly of me.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)