Poetry is a very powerful tool that enables us to develop our comprehension capacity. It uses amazing mechanisms to construct ideas such as metonymy, metaphors and hyperboles. These mechanisms help to deepen our understanding of the language and enrich our connection to it.
Therefore, this article’s intention is to show how relevant poetry actually is in our everyday conversations. Furthermore, I wish to demonstrate how poetry can not only help us to better understand Spanish, but also help us to speak it better. This is because being able to comprehend poems can give us greater confidence, and thus help us to speak easily and without fear. Finally, I will help you to understand the mechanisms of poetry by explaining metonymy, metaphors and hyperbole with examples and translations.
To start with, here are a couple of examples of metonymy that are used very often in Spanish:
- Vamos a bebernos una botella de vino. Let’s drink a bottle of wine.
Obviously, we are not going to drink the bottle itself because it isn’t a liquid. Instead, when we hear a sentence like this, we all understand that what we want to drink are the actual contents of the bottle; that is to say, the wine itself. And this is basically what metonymy is: using the word for the container when we really mean the contents themselves. Another example comes up often when we meet someone new and want to have their contact number. This is the way we ask for it:
- Dame tu teléfono. Give me your phone.
- ¿Me das tu teléfono? Can I have your phone?
In reality, I don’t actually want this person to hand me over their smartphone because I am not a thief who is trying to mug them… I am just asking for their contact number.
Regarding metaphors, there are a lot more cases in everyday Spanish. For example, when we have a lot to do, we usually say:
- El tiempo es oro. Time is gold.
We say this because everyone knows that gold is a precious item, maybe the most precious thing that exists in the material world. By matching time with gold, we are making the point that it is equally valuable. Thus, as we can see, a metaphor is a comparison of two things that share some features.
Sometimes, we go even further and say:
- Navegar por Internet. To surf the Internet.
Here, we see that when we want to say that someone is searching for information on the net, we use the Spanish verb "to sail." Thus, we borrow a word from the maritime world, which refers to someone sailing across the sea. In this way, we assume that the Internet is like a huge ocean, limitless, but full of information instead of water.
Finally, I want to share a couple of examples of hyperbole, or exaggerations, that we routinely use, probably without even realizing it:
- Está lloviendo a cántaros. It’s raining cats and dogs.
This is what we say when it is raining heavily. A cántaro is an old fashioned clay container used to transport water and other liquids, especially in the distant past. They’re like the grandparents of plastic bottles and Tetra-pack cartons.
So, when someone uses a sentence like this, we imagine cántaros pouring water from the sky, and thus realize how heavily it’s raining. I must say, I’m actually relieved that I don’t have to explain the English version of this expression… I don’t want to even go there!
Another example of a hyperbole would be:
- Usaín Bolt es tan rápido como el rayo. Usain Bolt is as fast as a lightning bolt.
Even though Bolt is actually the fastest runner on Earth, it is a bit of an exaggeration to compare him to a lightning bolt, because that would mean that he can run as fast as the speed of light… If that were possible, Usain would have discovered teleportation!
Before finishing my article, I encourage you to read this little poem by Gustavo Adolfo Béquer that attempts to explain what poetry is:
¿Qué es poesía?
Dices mientras clavas en mi pupila tu pupila azul;
¿Qué es poesía...? ¿Y tú me lo preguntas?
¡Poesía... eres tú!
What is poetry?
You are saying this while fixing your blue eyes on my eyes;
What is poetry? Are you really asking me about this?
Poetry… it’s you!
To end on a high note, I encourage you to read, listen to and write poetry. It’s definitely worth a try! Doing it will force you to think in Spanish, and thus help you to take a major step towards speaking in a more creative way.