Diasyrmus (di’-a-syrm-os): Rejecting an argument through ridiculous comparison.

Claiming that you shot your mother because her smile irritated you is like claiming you sawed your foot off because you had a blister.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

Diazeugma (di-a-zoog’-ma): The figure by which a single subject governs several verbs or verbal constructions (usually arranged in parallel fashion and expressing a similar idea); the opposite of zeugma.

I couldn’t find my needle because my metal detector’s battery was dead, the haystack was on fire, and I was drunk.

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Definition courtesy of Silva Rhetoricae (rhetoric.byu.edu)

Dicaeologia (di-kay-o-lo’-gi-a): Admitting what’s charged against one, but excusing it by necessity.

A: Did you take my mother’s ashes off the fireplace mantle?

B: Yes, but I was forced to do it by our house cleaner. He refused to “dust the dead” and told me if I didn’t get the ashes out of the house immediately and forever he would quit right on the spot. I panicked. I had no choice.  I picked up the urn, ran out to the garage and put your mother’s ashes on the shelf alongside the mole repellent. I know your mother would like that.  She was so fond of furry little critters. Remember the time Spotty brought home the little wriggly bleeding vole when your mom was visiting from . . .

A: You call that an excuse? It sounds more like the beginning of an episode of “American Horror Story.” What are you going to tell me next, that you’re going to enjoy choking on the bag of used kitty litter out on the back porch?

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Dilemma (di-lem’-ma): Offering to an opponent a choice between two (equally unfavorable) alternatives.

You have told us you are a kind man. Yet you’ve repeatedly beaten your children.

You have told us you are generous man. Yet you wear silk, gold rings, and silver buckles while your family sits here in rags, shoeless.

Clearly, you are a liar and miscreant. Now, tell us which of your misdeeds is worse: beating your children or depriving your family?

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)

Dirimens Copulatio

Dirimens Copulatio (di’-ri-mens ko-pu-la’-ti-o): A figure by which one balances one statement with a contrary, qualifying statement (sometimes conveyed by “not only … but also” clauses). A sort of arguing both sides of an issue.

Protagoras (c. 485-410 BC) asserted that “to every logos (speech or argument) another logos is opposed,” a theme continued in the Dissoi Logoi of his time, later codified as the notion of arguments in utrumque partes (on both sides). Aristotle asserted that thinking in opposites is necessary both to arrive at the true state of a matter (opposition as an epistemological heuristic) and to anticipate counterarguments. This latter, practical purpose for investigating opposing arguments has been central to rhetoric ever since sophists like Antiphon (c. 480-410 BC) provided model speeches (his Tetralogies) showing how one might argue for either the prosecution or for the defense on any given issue. As such, [this] names not so much a figure of speech as a general approach to rhetoric, or an overall argumentative strategy. However, it could be manifest within a speech on a local level as well, especially for the purposes of exhibiting fairness (establishing ethos [audience perception of speaker credibility]).

This pragmatic embrace of opposing arguments permeates rhetorical invention, arrangement, and rhetorical pedagogy.

When faced with a decision, time and place may vex our motives.  For example, being unable to be full of praise and full of rage toward the same issue, person, idea or anything else from within the compass of here and now, we are at a crisis, a stasis, a standstill.

Realizing that there are advantages and disadvantages to all prompts to decision we are stuck in a rut for the time-being.  That is, we must drive the road to judgment under the spell of a consistent motive, or we may zigzag, stop and start, back up, go forward, skid, lurch, crash, or, if we’re lucky (or unlucky), run out of gas, never getting anywhere, staying stuck in a rut.

In sum, while there may be two or more opposed why-ways to drive into the unknowable future, if you’re going to get anywhere at all, you must have the foresight to take a single (because best) why-way to your hope’s destination. Nevertheless, realize that there may be unforeseen roadblocks along the way that necessitate taking a detour–a different why-way–in order to get to your destination.

As a reminder of what may happen between now and then, here and there, I have a statue of Stephen Toulmin glued to my decision dashboard.  For he is the cousin of Hermes, the grandson of Magellan, and the Supreme Spirit of Life’s Road Trips.

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Definition and commentary courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Distinctio (dis-tinc’-ti-o): Eliminating ambiguity surrounding a word by explicitly specifying each of its distinct meanings.

Hope: Desire for a future that is yet to be, does not exist, yet may be actualized by its bearers step after step, cross stitching history to join our memories with threads of courage that clothe the present in the-dream-coming-true.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Distributio (dis-tri-bu’-ti-o): (1) Assigning roles among or specifying the duties of a list of people, sometimes accompanied by a conclusion.  (2) Sometimes this term is simply a synonym for diaeresis or merismus, which are more general figures involving division.

The CEO sets the tone. The VP tones the set. The CFO oversees the VP’s tone-setting of the set by continuously  assessing assets and liabilities and being set to instruct the VP to reset the tone of the set, and sometimes the set itself, to set the projected tone in accord with the set’s fluctuations so the CEO can set the tone in accord with the assessment. Brokers are set to put and take on sets of investors’ assets as the tone of the set is reset. Investors wait for quarterly reports that may set them to jubilance or malevolence. Consumers just buy stuff.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Ecphonesis (ec-pho-nee’-sis): An emotional exclamation.

Pat: “My head is on fire!”

Sam: “So is your imagination.”

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)


Effictio (ef-fik’-ti-o): A verbal depiction of someone’s body, often from head to toe.

Note: This figure was used in forensic rhetoric (legal argumentation) for purposes of clearly identifying an alleged criminal. It has often been adapted to poetical uses.

His head was shaped like an heirloom tomato–sort of elliptical with veined bumps running from front to back on the shaved part where his hair used to be.  His eyes were covered with a strip of spray-painted cardboard: flat red with little peepholes poked in it so he could see. His ears were pinned back like left and right side mirrors on a car ready to go through a car wash.   His neck looked like a scuffed traffic cone perched on his shoulders which were slumped and narrow like the back of a bentwood chair. His arms were fat fire hoses swinging as he walked toward me, clutching a big blue bucket with skinny little baby hotdog fingers accented by filthy fingernails.

His black t-shirt said in big bright-green letters: “Repent Or I will Pull Down My Pants.” His “pants” were two trash bags stapled to his T-shirt.

I was thinking “How’s he going to pull his pants down without ripping his T-shirt?”

I felt a shiver in my spine.

“Oh my God, it’s dad in his annual ‘surprise’ Halloween costume!”

I picked up a rock from the gutter and considered throwing it at him. Instead, I put it in his bucket.

“You may need this when the kids over on 85th street chase you like they did last year.”

“Do you remember, Dad?”

He looked at me with his cardboard-covered eyes and blew a tenor fart that slowly faded into the sound of a doleful tuba.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Ellipsis (el-lip’-sis): Omission of a word or short phrase easily understood in context.

Yesterday, I shaved my head. Tough! Rough!

Uh oh!

Problem. Five o’clock shadow around bald spot.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)


Enallage (e-nal’-la-ge): The substitution of grammatically different but semantically equivalent constructions.

The rain in Phoenix fell and fell and fell.  Drenched with nearly 2 inches of H2O, Interstate 17 closed, the airport closed, and 31,000 suburban Phonecians lost their electricity.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)


Enantiosis (e-nan-ti-o’-sis): Using opposing or contrary descriptions together, typically in a somewhat paradoxical manner.

It’s generally a good idea to tell the truth, but sometimes it gets innocent people killed.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)


Enigma (e-nig’-ma): Obscuring one’s meaning by presenting it within a riddle or by means of metaphors that purposefully challenge the reader or hearer to understand.

What gets hotter and hotter the more it cools?

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Ennoia (en-no’-i-a): A kind of purposeful holding back of information that nevertheless hints at what is meant. A kind of circuitous speaking.

The car is covered in bird poop and mud. The bucket, sponge and hose are over there. The vacuum’s by the porch, near the faucet.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Enthymeme (en’-thy-meem): 1. The informal method [or figure] of reasoning typical of rhetorical discourse. The enthymeme is sometimes defined as a “truncated syllogism” since either the major or minor premise found in that more formal method of reasoning is left implied. The enthymeme typically occurs as a conclusion coupled with a reason. When several enthymemes are linked together, this becomes sorites. 2.  A figure of speech which bases a conclusion on the truth of its contrary. [Depending on its grammatical structure and specific word choice, it may be chiasmus].

1. We made it to New Hampshire! Let the fun begin!

2. If justice should be pursued always all the time, injustice should be avoided always all the time.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu). Bracketed text added by Gorgias.


Epanodos (e-pan’-o-dos): 1. Repeating the main terms of an argument in the course of presenting it. 2. Returning to the main theme after a digression. 3. Returning to and providing additional detail for items mentioned previously (often using parallelism).

Uncertainty is looking for faith, faith for the foundation of trust, trust for the will to believe, belief for the motive to act.

Sadly, there’s no guaranteed connection between faith, trust, belief, and action’s consequences. Things often do not ‘turn out’ as expected. Nevertheless, we cannot jettison faith, trust, belief and action.  Ironically, claiming not to be a bearer of faith, one is claiming to have faith in not having faith. The same goes for trust.  That is, mistrust is trust, nevertheless. The same goes for belief.  That is, disbelief is belief, nevertheless. Regarding action, action inevitably conjures consequences: even inaction has consequences, as does indifference.

So, we are left with irony as the atmosphere of human existence: everything is potentially its opposite, and judgment navigates being’s endlessly revolving sphere by turning and returning to yes and no, time after time after time. . . .

So, uncertainty is looking for faith, faith for the foundation of trust, trust for the will to believe, belief for the motive to act. Looking, looking, looking–never seeing, we survive Irony’s atmosphere by attending the banquet of conversation and consuming the hooked exclamation points that pass as question marks. Being hooked, what is there left to say?

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Epanorthosis (ep-an-or-tho’-sis): Amending a first thought by altering it to make it stronger or more vehement.

The outcome of today’s referendum in Scotland will have significant consequences no matter whether it’s a yes or a no vote for independence.

No, let’s put it this way: The Pound is losing weight, the price of crude is bubbling, Johnny Walker has on his running shoes, and my grandma is in her bedroom yelling “Wha daur meddle wi me!” at her Big Ben chiming souvenir clock.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)


Epenthesis (e-pen’-thes-is): The addition of a letter, sound, or syllable to the middle of a word. A kind of metaplasm. NoteEpenthesis is sometimes employed in order to accommodate meter in verse; sometimes, to facilitate easier articulation of a word’s sound. It can, of course, be accidental, and a vice of speech.

The NF-UH OH-L! What’s next? Drowning kittens? Cannibalism? Drive-by mooning? Satan worship? Communist quarterbacks?

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Epergesis (e-per-gee’-sis): Interposing an apposition, often in order to clarify what has just been stated.

My cat, the thirty pounder, started working out today.

Instead of napping all day downstairs, he climbs the stairs around 11.00 in the morning and naps in the bathtub. Then, in the early evening he goes down the stairs and naps until around 7.00 in the living room. Then, he goes down the stairs into the basement and naps until around 10.00. Then, he goes upstairs and does his cardboard box “scratchercise” for five minutes, hurling bits of cardboard around the kitchen floor. Then, out of breath, he flops on the kitchen floor and waits for his nightly kitty treat.

Not a bad workout for a thirty-pound cat!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Epexegesis (ep-ex-e-ge’-sis): When one interprets what one has just said. A kind of redefinition or self-interpretation (often signaled by constructions such as “that is to say. . .”).

Promises are meant to be kept. That is, once made, they’re supposed to last forever. But I live in a world of change, and as change changes, I may be left holding onto a promise that may explode in my face and kill me.

What good are promises? They are only as good as their openness to revision where circumstances warrant their breaking.

Every promise should be unless, unless the promise is meant to be unkept. That is to say, when it is a lie.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Epicrisis (e-pi-cri’-sis): When a speaker quotes a certain passage and makes comment upon it.

Related figuresanamenesis–calling to memory past matters. More specifically, citing a past author from memory–and chreia (from the Greek chreiodes, “useful”) . . . “a brief reminiscence referring to some person in a pithy form for the purpose of edification.” It takes the form of an anecdote that reports either a saying, an edifying action, or both.

Pascal advises us: “Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false?”

He gives this advice as a reason to believe in God. However belief and faith encompass far more than religion. Faith and belief are operative in everyday life. From faith in our friends, to the belief that Oxyclean will do the job on our wine-stained shorts, we “gamble.”

Unlike one’s faith in God (which does not really seem to be much of a gamble anyway), faith’s gamble on friends and laundry products can, and do, lead to harm. Our friends betray us. Our pants are ruined.

Moreover, not knowing whether we will win or lose, we must gamble if we are to face the future and act. The prospects of having friends and clean pants are worth the risk.

On Wednesday in a speech addressing the world, acting as a sort of political trustee, President Obama will place a bet for the United States. Having faith in the wisdom of his wager, he will most likely bet on war.

What if we lose?

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Definitions courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)


Epilogus (e-pi-lo’-gus): Providing an inference of what is likely to follow.

What’s next? Peace? War?

WE know what’s next.

THEY know what’s next.

It isn’t peace.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).


Epimone (e-pi’-mo-nee): Persistent repetition of the same plea in much the same words.

Please don’t start marching until you know where you’re going.

Please don’t start dropping bombs until you know where they should fall.

If you must do it, please do it right.

The world is on fire.

Fight fire with water.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)


Epiplexis (e-pi-plex’-is): Asking questions in order to chide, to express grief, or to inveigh. A kind of rhetorical question [--the speaker does not expect an answer].

When will NATO actually take action? When Ukraine is annexed? When Hell freezes over? When the cow jumps over the moon? When Putin takes his shirt off? When John Kerry gets a haircut? When?

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu). Bracketed text added by Gorgias.


Epistrophe (e-pis’-tro-fee): Ending a series of lines, phrases, clauses, or sentences with the same word or words.

The horizon. The landscape’s horizon. The future’s horizon. Time’s horizon. Life’s horizon.

Facing the horizon, we ask, “What’s next?” We answer, “We don’t know.”

Anxiety stoked, we ask again, “What’s next?” This time the question has an urgent tone.

Decision is our fate. Decision is our duty. Decision is our humanity, and our humanity is bound by imperfection, uncertainty, and agency swaying to the chiming questions tolling in our heads:

Why? Why? Why? Why?

Love? Hate? Hope? Fear?

How? How? How? How?

When? When? When? When?

Now? Never? Tomorrow? Forever?

You decide.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)