Describe the type of diction used in the poem "Digging" by Seamus Heaney.

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Seamus Heaney uses both middle and poetic diction in the poem “Digging” to make its meaning accessible and straightforward to readers.

Middle diction is the use of words that are chosen to be more formal than colloquial language but less elevated and more relatable than formal diction. Middle...

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Seamus Heaney uses both middle and poetic diction in the poem “Digging” to make its meaning accessible and straightforward to readers.

Middle diction is the use of words that are chosen to be more formal than colloquial language but less elevated and more relatable than formal diction. Middle diction adheres to grammatical rules and manners while utilizing everyday language (but not slang).

Heaney uses understandable and common (but not child-like or primitive) vocabulary, such as “clean rasping sound,” “flowerbeds,” “coarse boot nestled,” “Nicking and slicing,” and more. Showing admiration for his grandfather, he exalts,

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

His praise is not stiffly formal or casual, but straightforward.

Poetic diction is the use of literary devices as tools to create effects. One example of poetic diction is the simile “snug as a gun.” This simile creates an unexpected connection between two very different objects: a pen and a gun. Heaney utilities poetic diction to create alliteration in order to generate a feeling of smoothness (e.g., “spade sinks into gravelly ground”) or the immediacy of sound (e.g., “the squelch and slap / Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge”).

The middle and poetic diction of “Digging” together create a tone of genuine admiration and nostalgia for hard work and Irish farm life. Although Heaney’s speaker is a writer and does not plan to follow his father and grandfather into farming, he does not criticize or romanticize it either.

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The diction in Seamus Heaney’s poem “Digging” is characterized by alliteration and assonance. The first term denotes words which connect through their consonant sounds; they sound a bit harsher and give the voice of the poem a staccato feel, thus evoking a sense of brusqueness. Some examples of this are “snug as a gun," “spade sinks into the gravelly ground," buried the bright edge deep," and “the curt cuts of an edge." Through alliteration, Heaney emphasizes the hard work that goes into the digging itself.

Assonance, on the other hand, is the repetition of vowel sounds, which produces an effect of flowing, as the air is expelled more openly while pronouncing such combinations of words. The assonance in this poem counterbalances the alliteration and gives a sense of ebbing and flowing of sound, which is paralleled with the movements of the digger.

Of note also is the use of onomatopoeic words such as “rasping," “sloppily," “heaving," “squelch,” and “slap." These words imitate the sounds they describe and contribute to Heaney’s concept of connecting the voice of the poem with the actions it depicts, which contributes to the feeling of synesthesia, whereby different elements of the poem combine into one complete whole.

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The diction, or word choice, used by Heaney in this poem, which compares his work "digging" for words to his father's work digging in a garden, is Anglo-Saxon. English is a hybrid of the Anglo-Saxon language and the latinate language the French brought with them when they conquered England in 1066. Anglo-Saxon words tend to be shorter, blunter, and more guttural. They are much beloved by those who write about good writing, from Orwell to Zinsser to Stephen King.

The blunt, simple, one-word title of this poem is a clue to the diction that follows. Anglo-Saxon words Heaney uses include "thumb," "squat, "rump," "coarse," "lug," and "shaft." These are one-syllable, guttural, plain words that speak to the physical rather than the ethereal, intellectual side of life.

Heaney's diction also captures the rhythms of local dialect:

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
"By God" mimics speech, and "old man" is an idiom meaning "father."
Throughout the poem, Heaney's speaker emphasizes the heaving, grunting physicality of the work both he and his father do. In the speaker's case, the words don't just pop up on the page through magic—the focus is on the pen between the thumb and finger, pushing and digging in labor.
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Seamus Heaney employs simple, straightforward and descriptive diction to create both an image of his father digging potatoes and a memory of how his grandfather cut turf from a peat bog.

Heaney evokes the physical labor of his father's work:

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
and compares it to his grandfather's efforts in the peat bog:
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder
to make clear that the men used their bodies ("knee," "shoulder") in the physical labor that they did to sustain the family.
The speaker, contrastingly, holds a pen between his "finger" and "thumb" in work that is more mental than physical.
Besides focusing on the physicality of the work, the diction in this poem also brings the world of the father and grandfather to life. The father digs into the "gravelly ground," and the grandfather slices into "good turf" while the "cold smell of potato mould" and the "squelch and slap of soggy peat" fill the air with resonant sights and sounds.

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Diction is defined as an author's choice of words within a text. IN the case of Seamus Heaney's "Digging," the author's word choice encompasses the terminology which one would associate with agriculture, war, and writing (all battles in their own sense). 

For example, the words Heaney chooses to represent agriculture are spade, flower beds, potato drills, turf, sod, and dig. The words Heaney chooses to illustrate war are as follows: gun, twenty yards (a measurement used to describe distances in war/battle), boot, and levered. Finally, the single word associated with writing is simplistic: pen.

Another aspect of the author's choice of diction worth mentioning is the use of first person. By using the pronoun I, the author provides the reader with a more intimate view and connection with the speaker.   

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