1. Nickod777

    Nickod777 New Member

    Nov 15, 2012
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    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Nickod777, Nov 15, 2012.

    I understand that an allusion is a reference to a famous quote, person, place, show etc. I was wondering if an allusion could be done in a certain way like this below...

    Can you have a famous person from the past that is not so well known today have a reference to him/her saying something that would be true now a days but wasn't very true back then.

    Example: in the Song Always Picking On Me by DJ S3RL, he sings a song about people picking on him and such, and involves the words

    "About as popular with the girls as Englebert Humperdink"

    Which I think is meant for terms now a days as he is not popular anymore, (Englebert Humperdink) so neither of them are popular with the girls.

    Can an allusion work like that?
  2. Berber

    Berber Active Member

    Sep 18, 2011
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    United States
    I'm not entirely certain what you are asking here, but an allusion is only going to be as powerful as your readers ability to recognize it as such. Of course you can refer to an ambiguous historical figure, but if your reader has never heard of them, then they're not going to get it. For example, I've never heard of either DJ S3RL or Englebert Humperdink. Since I have no point of reference, I don't understand the connotation behind the statement, "About as popular with the girls as Englebert Humperdink." Could be negative, could be positive - I don't know.

    Now, if you are referencing some previously famous individual in a comparative sense (like DJ S3RL did), then you might be in trouble, especially if they've fallen out of public interest. "I think I'm about as smart as David Hilbert." If you don't know who Hilbert was, you wont get it. However, if I said, "I'm as smart as Einstein," you immediately get what I'm trying to say. Allusions are usually a bit more subtle than that, but you get the point.

    Your question, however, seems to imply that you are actually quoting someone - which is entirely different. A direct quote is not the same thing as an allusion, as the reader needs no point of reference to understand the context. Of course you can still use the quote, why not? But it's not going to act in the same manner as an allusion would. An allusion requires some previous knowledge on the reader's part; a direct quote does not.
  3. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Alive in the Superunknown

    Jun 28, 2012
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    That's not so much an allusion as it is a straight reference anyway. An allusion is typically more veiled. For instance, in one passage of my rewrite, instead of saying "the Shah of Iran", I write, "the Peacock Throne". Some few will know the reference immediately; most will not. They may need to look it up.

    Another form of allusion is to mention events without attaching the names of the agents: Hitler's catchphrase of "November criminals" was an allusion to the revolutionaries who overthrew the Kaiser and surrendered in November 1918. It worked because it packed much thought into two words.

    This last point, of packaging many ideas into a few words, is the crux of the concept of allusion.
  4. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    according to some dictionary definitions, a literary allusion can be either direct or indirect...

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