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Wednesday, December 14, 2011


According to my Reference Handbook of Grammar and Usage (seen here), "a brief reference to a person, place, thing, or event that is familiar to most people" is called an allusion [uh-loo-zhuhn].  Writers use allusions to convey a great deal of meaning with just a few words.  For example, when I write:

He was a cantankerous Scrooge of a man.

I'm making an allusion to the character Ebeneezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  Anyone who knows the story will be able to picture the man when they read that sentence, without me specifically saying that he is miserly, disagreeable, and downright mean. (I could have even left out "cantankerous", but I love that word and wanted to use it!)

In this sentence:

 The little town looked as if it had
come straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.

I'm making an allusion to Dr. Seuss' distinctive illustrations.  Anyone who's seen them will have an idea of what I'm talking about, and may picture a colorful, whimsical, slightly off-kilter town without me using any of those adjectives.

What kind of allusions can you make in your writing?

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