Rustling leaves…flashed an intricate semaphore

Word count: 248 words

Reading time: about 1 minute

I read widely, watch movies and listen to the radio. Here is an interesting piece of figurative language I’ve encountered recently.

I saw a few minutes of the movie, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, many years ago, starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz. I didn’t care much for it so I never sought out the book. But this weekend a friend who loved the book gave me a copy. I started reading it yesterday and while I’m not 100% sure it’s my kind of novel (I haven’t yet read enough for me to know) I can already tell that author Luis de Bernieres has a few sophisticated turns up his sleeve. Here is a piece of figurative language I uncovered yesterday:

A light breeze from the sea wandered in and out of the olives, rustling the leaves so that each one flashed an intricate semaphore of silver and dark green. 

Lately, it’s become clear to me what an integral role personification plays in metaphor. Here, we see the breeze turned into a person who “wanders” and we see “leaves” flashing intricate semaphore at each other. I like having nature personified, particularly when it’s done in such an apt and surprising way. My husband and I walk in forests quite regularly and as soon as I read the semaphore image I knew the author was describing something I’d seen hundreds of times and had never managed to articulate.

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