The footsteps of evolution can be hard to retrace…

Word count: 225 words

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I read widely, watch movies and listen to the radio. In today’s post you’ll see an interesting piece of figurative language I’ve encountered recently, this time focusing on personification.

You know, I never fully realized how much I appreciated personification until I started keeping this blog. When in school, I’d always imagined it to be a fairly heavy-handed technique, best used sparingly, if not reluctantly. Now I realize it’s a smart tool that make writing spring to life. (See that? I just used some personification without even breaking a sweat!)

Furthermore, personification doesn’t need to be reserved for novels and short stories. It works equally well in non-fiction. Here’s an example from a Sept. 17 New Yorker article on evolutionary stories, headlined “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” by Anthony Gottlieb.

There are some puzzles — cheetahs have spots, though they prefer open hunting grounds — but that’s to be expected, since the footsteps of evolution can be as hard to retrace as those of a speckly leopard in the forest. 

In fact, this sentence offers both personification and a metaphor rolled up into one delightful package. Don’t you like the way evolution has footsteps and that these are as hard to retrace as those of a leopard? (I also love that fillip, speckly, to modify leopard!)

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