Lauer's Rhetoric
Mission Statement:

To inculcate the art of strategy in formal writing for maximum effect; dedicated to all students of Spanish at The University of Oklahoma

Works Consulted:


Aristotle.  Rhetorica

Quintilian.  Institutio oratoria

[Cicero]. Ad Herennium

Sp. = Spanish
Eng. = English
Lat. = Latin
Gr. = Greek


character delineation
dwelling on the point
figures of diction
figures of thought
frankness of speech
occular demonstration
reasoning by contraries
reasoning by question and answer
reciprocal change
rhetorical question
summation schema
vivid description

A.  FIGURES OF DICTION(polish of language; when the language departs from the ordinary meaning of the words and is, with a certain grace, applied in another sense):

ADJUNCTION (Sp. adición [añadidura]).  When the verb holding the sentence together is at the beginning or the end: “Either with disease or age physical beauty fades.”  Obviously, a speaker or writer can hold an audience in suspense if s/he places the verb at the end (as it is done in Latin or German), thus creating tension and release in an audience; this, obviously, serves to hold the audience’s attention.  With this figure, attention deficit disorders may, alas, with time, eventually, perhaps, be cured.

ALLEGORY (Lat. permutatio; Sp. alegoría).  A manner of speech denoting one thing by the letter of the words, but another by their meaning.  It assumes three aspects: a)   Comparison, b)  Argument, and c) Contrast.  Examples: 
a)  Comparison (when a number of metaphors originating in a similarity in the mode of expression are set together, as 
      follows: “For when dogs act the part of wolves, to what guardian [shepherd/statesman], pray, are we going to entrust 
      our herds of cattle?” [the citizens]). 
b)  Argument (when a similitude is drawn from a person or place or object in order to magnify or minify, as when in a 
     debate D-Texas senator Benton told vice-residential candidate Quayle, who had stated he was the same age as JFK 
     when he ran for office: “I knew JFK personally, and, frankly, senator, you are no John F. Kennedy”). 
c)  Contrast (if, for example, one should mockingly call a spendthrift and voluptuary frugal and thrifty, or if your strictly 
     vegeterian friend’s name were Hannibal Lecter).

ANAPHORA (Lat. repetitio; Sp. anáfora).  When a word forms successive beginnings for phrases expressing like and different ideas.  Anaphoras are used to emphasize or reiterate.  In the speech below, for example, what stands out is the name of one of Rome’s greatest generals, Scipio, known for his African and Spanish conquests as Africanus and Numantinus: “Scipio razed Numantia, Scipio destroyed Carthage, Scipio brought peace, Scipio saved the state.”  Remember the 1995 song “I Got a Girl” (from Tripping Daisy's I am an Elastic Firecracker)?

ANTISTROPHE (Lat. convertio; Sp. antístrofa or antiestrofa).  Repetition of the last word in a phrase.  The function of an antistrophe is similar to that of an anaphora; the difference, of course, is that what is emphasized or reiterated is the last instead of the first word, as in the following speech wherein Roman superiority is asseverated:  “By the Romans they were conquered, by our force of arms they were conquered, by our strength they were conquered.”

ANTITHESIS (Lat. contentio; Sp. antítesis).  When the style is built upon contraries:  “To enemies you show yourself conciliatory, to friends inexorable.”  For impressiveness and distinction. The use of this figure in a speech shows an orator’s clear, organized, and disciplined mind, hence persuading a public to accept it.

ANTONOMASIA or PRONOMINATION (Lat. pronominatio; Sp. antonomasia).  It designates by a kind of adventitious epithet a thing that cannot be called by its proper name.  In this way one is able, not without elegance, in praise and in censure, concerning physical attributes, qualities of character, or external circumstances, to express oneself by using a kind of epithet in place of the precise name: The Savior (Christ), The Angelic Doctor (St. Thomas Aquinas), The Philosopher (Aristotle), The Angel (St. Gabriel), The Virgin / The Madonna (St. Mary), the Prudent King (Felipe II), Der Führer (Hitler), Il Duce (Mussolini), El Caudillo (Franco), The Great Communicator (Reagan), The Duke (John Wayne), The King (Elvis), the People's Princess (Diana Spencer), Madonna (the material Ciccone girl herself!), etc.

APOSIOPESIS (Lat. praecisio; Sp. aposiopesis).  When something is said and then the rest of what the speaker had begun to say is left unfinished.  Used to create suspicion.  Overused in soap operas.

APOSTROPHE (Lat. exclamatio; Sp. apóstrofe).  To express grief and indignation by means of an address to some man or city or place or object .  According to Postmodern critic Paul de Man, it is a hallucinatory figure, for it evokes or makes present what may very well be absent, as in the powerful speech below, addressed to the corpse of a great warrior:  “It is you I now address, [Scipio] Africanus, whose name even in death means splendor and glory to the state!”  Not a nickname for Emperor Julian (the Apostate).

ASYNDETON (Sp. asíndeton).  Supression of conjunctions:  “What ought you to do? Indulge your father, obey your relatives, gratify your friends, submit to the laws”.  This figure has animation and great force and is suited to concision.  The opposite is POLYSYNDETON (Sp. polisíndeton) and is used for a much slower and emphatic delivery: “What ought you to do, you ask?  Well, glory be, child, grab a chair and let Dr. Bob tell you: Indulge your father, and obey your relatives, and gratify your friends, and submit to the laws.  That’s it!  End of story.  That will be a quarter.”

CATACHRESIS (Lat. abusio; Sp. catacresis).  The inexact use of a like and kindred word in place of the precise and proper one:  “small height,” “the long wisdom in the man,” «reírse en sus barbas» [i.e., «reírse en su presencia»].  Words of kindred, but not identical, meaning have been transferred on the principle of inexact use (“Well, blow me to pieces!”).

CHIASMUS.  See reciprocal change.

CLIMAX (Lat. gradatio; Sp. gradación ascendente).  Speaker passes to following word only after advancing by steps to the preceding one.  Also called concatenation: “The industry of Africanus brought him excellence [A.1], his excellence [A.2] glory [B.1], his glory [B.2] rivals."  For charm.  Obviously, this requires skill to construct; so, an eloquent speaker can sound very convincing when using this figure, provided s/he does not abuse it.  NB: No, it is not  a drama (or dramatic) term.

COLON or CLAUSE (Lat. membrum; Sp. miembro, colon).  Name given to a sentence member, brief and complete, which does not express the entire thought, but is in turn supplemented by another colon.  It may have two or, better yet, three cola, as in the following example, which triplicates the syntagm N + V + Obj.:  “You [N 1] were helping [V 1] your enemy [Obj. 1], you [N 2] were hurting [V 2] your friend [Obj. 2], and you [N 3] were not consulting [V 3] your own best interests [Obj. 3].”  It is slow in its delivery.  Also called PARALLELISM or Sp. sintagma no progresivo (Dámaso Alonso) [a sintagma progresivo {take only one of the above units, i.e., “You [N] were helping [V] your enemy [Obj.]”} would not allow a plurimembración or repetition of syntagms [i.e., a triplicated or reiterated subject, verb, or object as we have in the example above, which is reiterated thrice].  The use of this figure is to emphasize something which needs to be emphasized.  A triple parallelism is the most effective syntagm.  More than that becomes ineffective, tedious, or absurd.  In a court of law, a lawyer may use this tactic to break down a client or witness.  V. Isocolon.  NB: No, this figure is not part of one’s anatomy.

COMMA or PHRASE.  When single words are set apart by pauses in staccato speech:  “By your vigour, voice, looks, you have terrified your adversaries.”  It is quick in its delivery.  Also called CONGERIES or Lat. copia (Sp. cóngeres).   Nominal congeries are common in the epic, especially when soldiers are mentioned, as in the Cid, where such enumerations or accumulations serve to magnify the scope of a battle.  NB: this is not a misspelled Spanish command for eat!

CONCLUSION(Sp. conclusión).  By means of a brief argument, it deduces the necessary consequences of what has been said or done before, as follows:  “But if the oracle had predicted to the Danaans that Troy could not be taken without the arrows of Philoctetes, and these arrows moreover served only to smite Alexander, then certainly killing Alexander was the same as taking Troy.”  Any Beethoven symphony has one.

CONJUNCTION (Sp. conjunción [unión, conexión]).  When the previous and the succeeding phrases are held together by placing the verb between them:  “Either with disease beauty fades or with age.”  Suited to brevity and hence is to be used more frequently.  NB: this is not a variant of conjunctivitis.

CORRECTION (Sp. corrección).  Retracts what has been said and replaces it with what seems more suitable:  “After he conquered_or was conquered.”  Used to make an impression on an audience, an innuendo, a prefiguration, a—well—you understand!

DEFINITION (Sp. definición).  Grasps characteristic qualities of a thing in brief and clear-cut fashion.  It’s like calling a spade a shovel.  Not used much by Postmodernists.

DISJUNCTION (Sp. disyunción [separación]).  When each of two or more clauses ends with a special verb (very elegant):  “By the Roman people Numantia was destroyed, Carthage razed, Corinth demolished, Fregellae overthrown.” Or, “With disease physical beauty fades, with age it dies.”  For elegant display.  In effect, by the use of this figure it would appear a speaker is saying several things; however s/he is merely repeating a similar concept using different words.  A person with a good command of this figure gets dinner invitations often, for s/he never runs out of things to say.  Not a medical condition.

ELIMINATION (Lat. expeditio).  When we have enumerated the several ways by which something could have been brought about and all are then discarded except the one on which we are insisting.  This is a good figure to use when summing up a case before a jury; the jury, of course, will be left with the most plausible choice last, so as to best remember it before passing judgment.  For an additional example see Ten Little Indians.

EPANAPHORA (Sp. epanáfora).  See anaphora.  Gesundheit!

HOMOEOPTOTON (Sp. homeoptoton, homoioptoton, Lat. similiter cadens).  When in the same period two or more words appear in the same case, with like terminations: “Hominem laudem egentem virtutis, abundantem felicitates” [“Am I to praise a man abounding in good luck, but lacking in virtue?”].  Purpose? To create a hypnotic effect in an audience, which is easily suaded by the musical cadence to perhaps accept an idea or concept which may be problematic.  Thin, for instance, of the line “life is plastic, it's fantastic” (Aqua's “Barbie Girl” song [my favorite]).  Not a homeopathic doctor.

HOMOEOTELEUTON (Sp. homeoteleuton, homoioteleuton, Lat. similiter cadens; Sp. similicadencia).  When the word endings are similar although the words are indeclinable (no change in inflection, or change in pitch or loudness of the voice):  “You dare to act dishonorably, you strive to talk despicably, you live hatefully, you sin zealously, you speak offensively.”  The function is the same as for the figure of homoeoptoton.  Not a chiropractic doctor either.

HYPERBATON (Lat. transgressio; Sp. hipérbaton).  It upsets the word order by means of anastrophe (Lat. perversione [reversal of order]) or transposition (e.g., the separation of adjectives from the nouns they modify).  If it does not render the thought obscure, it serves to achieve poetic rhythm [NB: This is Asian in origin.  Cicero {Orator 69.229} explains: “We must not transpose words in an obvious manner for the sake of achieving a better cadence or a more flowing rhythm”].  Examples:  Luis de Góngora's poetry, e.g., «Este que ves bostezo de la tierra» (e.g., «este bostezo de la tierra [i.e., esta cueva] que ves»).  Hyperbaton, when done well, will serve to emphasize certain elements over others which stand out precisely by the transposition.  Whoever uses this figure well has a great command of language.  When badly done, hyperbaton serves to obfuscate thought and to render a speech absurd or pedantic.  Overused by postmodernists.

HYPERBOLE (Lat. superlatio; Sp. hipérbole).  An exaggeration of the truth for the sake of magnifying or minifying something:  “The sun never sets on the Spanish [English, Portuguese, Russian, Dutch, French, Ottoman] empire” (it was that vast).  “Texas Toast.”  “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

HYPOPHORA (Sp. hipófora, sujeción; Lat. subiectio).  When we inquire what adversaries can say in their favor, or what can be said against us; then we subjoin what ought or ought not to be said_that which will be favorable to us or, by the same token, be prejudicial to the opposition.  To convince one that of all choices this one is the best.  Do not use if concerned about MPS.

INDECISION (Lat. dubitatio; Sp. dubitación).  When the speaker seems to ask which of two or more words s/he had better use: “At that time the republic suffered exceedingly from--ought I to say--the folly of the consuls, or their wickedness, or both.”  The use of this figure in a court of law, of course, creates suspicion.  No indecision should ever be accidental (unless one is a Libra).  Remember Kato at the OJ trial?  Yes?  No?  Perhaps?

INTERLACEMENT (Lat. complexio; Sp. entrelazamiento).  The combination of anaphoras and antistrophes in a speech.  Both the first and the last words are repeated in a succession of phrases.  A speech which combines these two highly reiterative rhetorical figures would be highly eloquent, highly rhetorical and artificial on account of its transparency, and appropriate only when an audience is predisposed to accept it, e.g., in a patriotic, vitriolic, or ceremonial context, as the two examples below demonstrate: “Who waged war vs. us?  The Carthaginians.  Who broke our treaties?  The Carthaginians.  Who [variation]?  The Carthaginians.”   Cf. also Joseph Stalin's 26 January 1924 funeral speech in honor of Lenin: “Departing from us, Comrade Lenin . . . [several variations]  .  .  . we shall fulfill your behest with honor.”

INTERROGATION (Sp. interrogación retórica; Eng. rhetorical question).  Used to reinforce an argument.  Not too impressive or elegant.  However, if appropriately timed or repeated often enough, as in a court of law, a lawyer may create a hypnotic effect which might just trigger an unexpected answer from the person questioned: “Were you not the one who . . . ?”

ISOCOLON (Eng. parallelism, Sp. isocolon, paralelismo).  Figure comprised of cola which consist of a virtually equal number of syllables: “The father was eating, the mother was drinking, the child was playing.”   This is a basic unit in rhetoric, which in eloquence consists of repeating words or structures to maximize their effect and persuade a public to do whatever the orator wishes them to do.

MAXIM (Lat. sententia; Sp. sentencia).  A saying drawn from life to show concisely either what happens or ought to happen in life:  “Every beginning is difficult.”  The brevity of the statement has great charm.  Consider Dirty Harry’s highly sententious pronouncements before using Magnum force: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

METAPHOR (Lat. translatio; Sp. metáfora).  When a word applying to one thing is transferred to another, because the similarity seems to justify the transference.  It is used to create a vivid mental picture: “The insurrection awoke Italy with sudden terror.”  Also in order to be brief, to avoid obscenity, to magnify, to minify, to embellish (“we are but dust in the wind,” “she bloomed in her old age,” “he saw the light and was born again,” etc.).  It ought to be restrained so as to be a transition with good reason to a kindred thing, and not seem an indiscriminate, reckless, and precipitate leap [a metaphor] to an unlike thing.

METONYMY (Lat. denominatio; Sp. metonimia).  This is the figure which draws from an object closely akin or associated an expression suggesting the object meant, but not called by its own name.  This is accomplished by substituting the name of the greater thing for that of the lesser, or by substituting the name of the thing invented for that of the inventor, or the instrument for the possessor, the cause for the effect, or effect for cause.  Hence, one gives one’s hand in marriage (obviously, the rest of the person comes with it too, I hope), or, in Spanish, «tomaron unas copas» [meaning drinks].  «Traicionó la bandera» means to betray one’s nation.  A person of the cloth is an ecclesiastic.  A guillotine is the machine named after Dr. Guillotine, its inventor, as well as a paper cutter is Spanish.

ONOMATOPOEIA (Lat. nominatio; Sp. onomatopeya).  It suggests to us that we should ourselves designate with a suitable word, whether for the sake of imitation or of expressiveness, a thing which either lacks a name or has an inappropriate name.  Imitation of sounds: “roar,” “bellow,” “murmur,” “hiss.”  If used sparingly, its use gives distinction to the style.  If frequently or inappropriately, it creates aversion.  Cf. Edgar Allan Poe's poem “The Bells.”  I still remember the “tinkling of the bells.”  Remember the neighing of the horse every time Frau Bluher’s name was mentioned in Young Frankenstein?

PARALIPSIS (Lat. ocultatio, praeteritio, praetermissio; Sp. paralipsis, preterición, pretermisión).  Indirect allusion to create suspicion:  “Of these things I say nothing but return to the issue.”  No, this is not a variant word for paralysis or paralytic.

PARONOMASIA (Sp. paranomasia).  Modification of sound or change of letters so that similar words express dissimilar things (word plays): Lope de Vega, in El príncipe despeñado, has a woman character say: “No paro [I cannot stop] porque paro [because I am pregnant]” (parar, parir).  Used for entertainment.  But also to show one’s wit and to perhaps put an audience at ease, in which case it serves as a form of captatio benevolentiae.  Did you catch the pun in the movie version of Guinevere and Lancelot called First Knight (a pun on first night, a pun on the medieval practice of primae nocte)?

PERIOD (Sp. período).  A close, packed, and uninterrupted group of words embracing a complete thought; to be used in a maxim, a contrast, or a conclusion.  This would be a sintagma progresivo.  Its forceful impact relies precisely in its brevity.  A powerful period is found in the last words of the opera Pagliacci, where the play within the play suddenly becomes real and, with the real death of the “actors,” the protagonist declares to the real and the actual audience: “La commedia é finita”.   Not a history term.

PERIPHRASIS(Lat. circumitio; Sp. perífrasis, circunloquio; Eng. circumlocution, “beating around the bush”).  A manner of speech used to express a simple idea by means of circumlocution:  “The foresight of Scipio crushed the power of Carthage” instead of “Scipio crushed Carthage.” Used for embellishment.  The opposite of simplicity.  In highly complex cultures, periphrasis is often used to soften the blow, as it were, in order not to call a spade a shovel and thusly give offense to someone.  All politically correct terminology is periphrastic.  Examples: “revenue enhancements” (taxes); “friendly fire engagement” (dead); “physically challenged” (paralytic); “mentally challenged” (idiot); “ethically challenged” (corrupt).  This is the favorite figure of  all Postmodernists.

POLYPTOTON (Lat. traductio, Sp. poliptoton, polipote, traducción).  The repetition of a noun or pronoun in different cases or forms, or the repetition of a verb in different tenses: “¡Oh niñas, niño amor, niños antojos!” [Lope de Vega].  «Ni lo ha dado, ni lo da, ni lo dará».  Obviously, it is considered bad style to repeat a word or a sound often; if it happens, it is for a rhetorical purpose: either to make one laugh by the repetition of something previously heard (and now familiar to an audience), as in the first example; or to make one think about what may very well be a pattern, as in the second example.  And, no, as Arnold Schwartzenegger said it so well in Kindergarten Cop, “it’s not a tumor” (i.e., a polyp).

POLYSYNDETON.  See asyndeton.   Not a union term (a syndicate?).

REASONING BY CONTRARIES.  Of two opposite statements, this figure uses one so as neatly and directly to prove the other: “How can one who hates all love one?”  (called epicheireme when one derives a conclusion from consequents; enthymeme when one derives a conclusion from incompatibles).  This figure must be brief and completed in an unbroken period.  Calderonian heroes in Baroque drama use this figure often, as well as Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s poetic speakers in her sonnets and redondillas.  It is complex and requires a lot of  strategy.  Do not use when alone.  Peter O’Toole used this figure in The Ruling Class and, as he stated, after praying aloud so often he eventually reasoned he must be Jesus Christ, for he realized he was talking with himself.  Watch those meds!

REASONING BY QUESTION AND ANSWER (Lat. ratiocinatio).  To seek the reason to every statement we make: “Why . . . ?  Because . . . .”  For conversational style.  This figure may be impressively used in dramatic monologues where an actor, dialoging with himself, may engage in a series of questions and answers before deciding on a point of action: “To be [i.e., act] or not to be.  That is the question.”   Take those meds beforehand.

RECIPROCAL CHANGE (Lat. commutatio, Gr. & Eng. chiasmus; Sp. quiasmo, retruécano).  When two discrepant thoughts are so expressed by transposition that the latter follows from the former although contradictory to it: “Ask not what your country [A.1] can do for you [B.1], but what you [B.2] can do for your country [A.2]"; “You must eat [A.1] to live [B.1], not live [B.2] to eat [A.2].”  Neat effect, hard to invent.  A retruécano can also be used in witticisms, as in «una familia en La Mancha no es lo mismo que una mancha en la familia», but why overstress the gray matter for such cheap thrills?  That notwithstanding, anyone who can use a good chiasmus effectively and “spontaneously” gains an audience’s applause immediately, for most sensitive and noble people are truly impressed (God knows I am) by this kind of structure, even if one does not immediately grasps its meaning .  Who knows, one could even become like, well, a US president!

REDUPLICATION (Sp. reduplicación).  The repetition of one or more words for amplification or appeal to pity:  “You were promoting riots, Gaius Gracchus, yes, evil and internal riots.”  It is in bad taste to repeat the same word often; but if it happens, the word, concept, or idea must be important, as Valley Persons know so well (“for sure, for sure”).  Whatever!

SURRENDER (Lat. permissio, Sp. permisión, concesión).  When we indicate that we yield and submit the whole matter to another's will: “You may use and even abuse me.”  To provoke pity.  Amazingly enough, this works, probably because most people don’t want to see a scene as bad as Tammy Baker’s tears (with mascara running all over her face [gag me a spoon!).  Heck, they even made a movie about it!  Please!!!

SYNECDOCHE (Lat. intellectio; Sp. sinécdoque).  Also called pars pro toto or totum pro parte.  The whole is known from a small part (“lend me a hand,” i.e., your help) or a part from the whole (“Society [i.e., the citizens] frowns on your action”).  Or the plural will be understood from the singular: “To the Carthaginian came aid from the Spaniard” (instead of  Carthaginians and Spaniards).  I believe it is also the nickname for “Thing”’s girfriend in The Addams Family, no?

SYNONYMY or INTERPRETATION (Sp. sinonimia).  Does not duplicate the same word by repeating it but replaces the word by another one of the same meaning: “You have overturned the republic, you have demolished the state.”  To impress and reiterate a concept, but using other similar words so as not to bore an audience.  For variety.  A Valley Person would probably change “For sure, for sure” (see reduplication) to “For sure, for real.”  Like, whatever!

TRANSITION (Sp. transición).  Recalls what has been said and sets forth what is to follow.  A useless figure if suffering from mind deficit disorder.  Uh?

TRANSPLACEMENT (Lat. traductio; Sp. traducción, polipote, poliptoton).  The same word is frequently introduced throughout the speech to render the style more elegant and to emphasize a word or concept.  “One who has nothing in life more desirable than life cannot cultivate a virtuous life.”  It is not a synonym for those who move often.


B.  FIGURES OF THOUGHT (A figure of thought derives a  certain distinction from the idea, not from the words):

ACCUMULATION (Lat. frequentatio, enumeratio, consummatio; Sp. frecuentación, «proceso de diseminación y recopilación» [Dámaso Alonso & Carlos Bousoño]; Eng. summation schema).  When the points scattered throughout the whole cause are collected in one place so as to make the speech more impressive or sharp or accusatory: “From what vice, I ask, is this defendant free?  What ground have you for wishing to acquit him of the suit?  He is the betrayer of his own self-respect, and the waylayer of the self-respect of others; covetous, intemperate, irascible, arrogant; disloyal to his parents, ungrateful to his friends, troublesome to his kin; insulting to his betters, disdainful of his equals and mates, cruel to his inferiors; in short, he is intolerable to every one.”

ANTITHESIS.  When opposing thoughts are met in a comparison.  Go easy on the gray matter trying to figure this one out.

CHARACTER DELINEATION.  To describe a person's character by the definite signs which, like distinctive marks, are attributes of that character (like Polo shirts, cowboy belts, etc.)

COMPARISON.  Of one element of likeness to another.  Contrast.  Negation.  Detailed parallel comparison.  Abridged comparison.  Remember the commercial about “Mr. Ajax being stronger than dirt?”

CONCICENESS.  Expressing an idea by the very minimum of essential words.  As the older gentleman tells the policeman in Fargo at the end of a long description of the two unsavory characters he noticed earlier: “That’s it!  End of story!”

DIALOGUE (Lat. sermocinatio).  Putting in the mouth of some person language in keeping with his character: “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” (Sir Ronald Reagan, a.k.a. “The Great Communicator”); “Go ahead, punk, make my day!” (Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry”); “Like, what was I supposed to do?” (the singer in “Macarena” [probably a Valley Person {for sure, for sure}]).

DISTRIBUTION.   Certain specified rôles are assigned among a number of things or persons.

DIVISION.  Separates the alternatives of a question and resolves each by means of a reason subjoined.  Nothing to do with math, sorry.

DWELLING ON THE POINT.  When one remains rather long upon, and often returns to, the strongest topic on which the whole cause rests (“There you go again!” [Sir Ronald Reagan in a presidential debate]).

EMPHASIS.  Leaves more to be suspected than has been actually asserted:
a.  Through hyperbole - more is said than truth warrants, as in “Puccini is the Wagner of opera” (an actual statement).
b.  Ambiguity - when a word can be taken in two senses, but speaker takes it in use he intends.  When Pope John XXIII 
     was asked how many people worked in the Vatican, he impishly replied: “about half of them.”
c.  Logical consequence - when one mentions the things that follow from a given circumstance, leaving matter in distrust.
d.  Aposiopesis: - when we start to say something and then stop short, arousing suspicion.  As in, for instance, . . . .
e.  Analogy: - when we cite an analogue but do not amplify it.

EXEMPLIFICATION.  The citing of something done or said in the past along with the definite naming of the doer or author.

FRANKNESS OF SPEECH.  When talking before those to whom we owe reverence or fear, we yet exercise our right to speak out, because we seem justified in reprehending them, or persons dear to them, for some fault [i.e., precaution].  Benton to Quayle: “Senator, you are no John F. Kennedy!”

OCULAR DEMONSTRATION.  When an event is so described in words that the business seems to be enacted and the subject to pass vividly before our eyes, e.g., by including what has preceded, followed, and accompanied the event itself, or by keeping steadily to its consequences or the attendant circumstances (to amplify a matter to appeal to pity):  “In a sweat, with eyes blazing, hair bristling, toga awry, he begins to quicken his pace, several other men joining him.”  NB: This is not a synonym for an eye examination.

PERSONIFICATION.  Representing an absent person as present, or in making a mute thing or one lacking form articulate, and attributing to it a definite form and a language or a certain behavior appropriate to its character:  “I, city of renown.”  Be careful when you utter statements of this nature in public.

PORTRAYAL.  Representing and depicting in words (clearly enough for recognition) the bodily form of some person.  Also moral characteristics: “ruddy, short, bent man.”

REFINING.  Dwelling on the same topic and yet seeming to say something ever new, by merely repeating the same idea or by descanting upon it.  In the words, delivery, or treatment:  “ . . .safety of the fatherland, . . . security of the state, . . . fortunes of the republic.”  Nothing to do with sugar or with deportment.

SIMILE (Sp. símil).  Used for praise or censure.  Comparison of one figure to another, implying a certain resemblance between them: “as strong as a bull [as dumb, too].”

UNDERSTATEMENT (Eng. litote; Sp. lítote).  “I am not bad” instead of “I am the best.”  Or like calling Madonna a vir . . . .  Well, you catch my drift.

VIVID DESCRIPTION.  Figure which contains a clear, lucid, and impressive exposition of the consequences of an act.  Think of  that child carriage in Battleship Potemkin as the mother looks in awe at the approaching soldiers, etc.


A. Robert Lauer
Last revision on 26 August 2011