Tasis (ta’-sis): Sustaining the pronunciation of a word or phrase because of its pleasant sound. A figure apparent in delivery.

HER: Ohhh myyyy looooord! It’s you! It’s really you! How did you find us? Where have you been? We’ve moved three times since you went away. You never emailed. You never texted. You never tried to call. It’s not like we missed you that much, but your disappearance kept us in suspense. Little Timmy, who was six at the time, was hoping you were dead. You’ll have to ask him why. Although we wondered where you had gone we were mostly glad you were gone. Now, I suppose you want money, or need a place to hide from the police, or some other weirder thing.

HIM: Hey baby! Yeah, it’s me, Tony Trick. Remember how you used to call me Tony Baloney and I called you Hairy Mary? Well, those days are over—now you can call me Tony T-Bone! Given that you’re pointing a .45 at me, maybe I should call you Scary Mary. What the hell did I ever do to deserve a bullet in the brain? I left, that’s it.

HER: That’s enough dipshit. Not a word for 10 years! Timmy’s 16 and he doesn’t know you from Joe Bozo. We barely make ends meet. Timmy has a part-time job at the bakery where steals donuts and crumbcakes to help with food. I’ve been wearing these jeans for 7 years, and this blouse is 5 years old. Give me a break, shithead! Where have you been?

HIM: I can’t say where I’ve been, but I can tell you where I am. I have six female employees who need a place to entertain clients in the evening. I was wondering if . . .


HIM: Jeez—that’s my foot you crazy bitch—you shot it—you shot me in the foot! I’m bleeding all over the place! Dammit!

HER: That’s right scum face. It’s just what you needed. Timmy will cover your foot with a garbage bag and help you to your car. Just get out of here. One of your whores can clean you up and get you to an emergency room. If you tell anybody about this—about what I’ve done—be prepared to lose your balls. Also, rat me out and I’ll tell the police about your “disposal” business from back in the day. How many was it? Nine? Timmy, go ahead and help your dickweed father hobble out the door. Don’t let him fall down. He might hurt himself. Ha ha.

TIMMY: He’s gone Ma. But somehow he “fell” down the porch steps and hurt his knee pretty bad.

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

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Thaumasmus (thau-mas’-mus): To marvel at something rather than to state it in a matter of fact way.

I wanted new footwear—shoes, boots, flip flops, trainers—I didn’t care. I just wanted something new for my feet. My friend told me about an internet-based shoe store called “Atlas Sole Man.” Eddie said you could put in any search terms and you’d get a footwear surprise. I thought Eddie was full of crap. I asked how he found out about it and he said, “Family secret.” I thought to myself that it was odd—usually, ‘family secret’ is reserved for a special recipe or an illegitimate child being raised by the mother’s mother—the grandmother.

So, I booted up my laptop, logged onto the internet and Googled Atlas Sole Man. Nothing came up. I texted Eddie: “You’re full of shit. Soul man does not exist.” Eddie texted me back: “Sorry. Try ‘Sole Mann.’ Atlas uses two n’s on the internet. I Googled again and found the site. The opening page was a red slide. The slide said, “If you were sent by Eddie, click here. If Eddie did not send you, do not enter or your computer will be destroyed by the most virulent malware in your universe.

I was filled with wonder—all for some new footwear! Well, there I was. Just to see what I’d get I put “Pizza” in the search box. Immediately a digital voice said “Place your bare feet on your computer screen within the next 20 seconds.” I had to hurry. I pulled off my shoes and socks put my bare feet on the screen as instructed. When I pulled my feet back, I was wearing the coolest looking pepperoni and onion pizza sandals. They were made of Vibram. The topping faced the ground and worked as treads. The smooth side of the pizza was flat against the bottom of my foot. It was amazing. In fact, it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen in my life!

When I tried to go back on the site, it had disappeared. I asked Eddie what it was all about. He said, “It’s a family secret. Have you ever heard the tale of the elves and the shoemaker? My ancestors came from Germany and we’ve been working with magical elves for centuries, ever since my great-great-great-great grandfather, a shoemaker, saved some elves’ lives by making them warm clothes in the bitter winter.”

I believed every word Eddie said, but nobody else did. As soon as I told Eddie’s story to somebody else, my pizza shoes disappeared. People mocked me and Eddie said I was a liar.

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

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Tmesis (tmee’-sis): Interjecting a word or phrase between parts of a compound word or between syllables of a word.

I’m from New-friggin-Jersey— and Bruce and Frank and Thomas light bulb Edison too. I was the back-flash-lash: if you didn’t respect me, bang on your head. Growing up, the first word I learned was “con.” The first words of wisdom I learned were from the tattoo-covered guy down the street: “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

OK—I’m kidding. I did grow up in New Jersey, and it was great, sure, there was a bit of crime here and there, but there was so much more. What about the shore? Seaside Heights—the boardwalk and the beach, the rickety rides like the Wild Mouse and the Tilt-A-Whirl. The Wild Mouse was the scariest ride I ever went on—it made you feel like you were going to derail—it was like a mini-roller coaster with runners under the tracks to hold it on the tracks as it whipped around corners. Every once in awhile the runners would bend or break and the mouse-car would fly into the Atlantic Ocean. Nobody was ever killed as far as I can remember. When my daughter was around 8 they had a version of the Wild Mouse at the New York State Fair. She begged to go on it. I capitulated after telling her ten or fifteen times the ride was the scariest ever. We took the ride. We got off and my daughter couldn’t talk for ten minutes.

The Tilt-A-Whirl is a big circular thing with a wall, like big jar lid. Everybody gets strapped to the wall. It starts rotating, faster and faster until there’s enough centrifugal force to tilt it to a ninety-degree angle to the ground. My most memorable experience on the Tilt-A-Whirl was getting hit in the face by a shoe that had flown off the person across from me. Luckily, it wasn’t a boot.

Anyway, growing up in New Jersey was great. I even went through Army basic training there; at Ft. Dix during the Vietnam War. I had my first legal drink at Ft. Dix—watered down beer. No matter how much I drank, I couldn’t get drunk. I missed the liquor store back home where they never checked ID. Missing a “liberal” liquor store is a Jersey Boy’s version of homesickness. So to help me and my fellow trainees cope, I set up a little import business. I had a “friend” in New Egypt, about 5 miles from the Fort. But hey, that’s another story.

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

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Topographia (top-o-graf’-i-a): Description of a place. A kind of enargia [: {en-ar’-gi-a} generic name for a group of figures aiming at vivid, lively description].

It wasn’t far. It wasn’t near. It was nowhere. The great absence. It’s where he exists. Tubes. Respirators. Eyes closed. Comatose. The hospital room is brightly lit day and night—like a greenhouse growing flowers or tomatoes. The bed is high off the floor. With the push of a button you can raise and lower the head-end like an expensive media room settee. But, there’s no television, no radio, no connection to the outside world, and why should there be? The man in the bed is in another world. He hasn’t opened his eyes or shown any interest in anything since he was wheeled in two weeks ago.

The floors are so clean and shiny you can see up your pant leg when you look down. The tiles are brown and yellow—earthy, solid, pastoral even. When you look out the window you see a sprawling parking lot and the Jersey City skyline—it’s early evening so the office buildings are twinkling and bits of New York City are peeking through the gaps in Jersey City’s spacious architectural sprawl.

There are flowers delivered fresh every day with a note attached: “Love, Susie.” He has his own personal woolen blanket with a giant red letter “B” woven into it. His name is Franky Silt. What’s the “B” stand for, everybody asks? Bastard? Boyfriend? Bankrupt? What?

There is one chair by the bed telling you “One visitor at a time.” Beige metal with a fake black leather seat, worn by years of vigils held over the dying and the healing, and those like him, in neither neither land: alive and dead, binding and void, null and valid.

Time for bed, which is ironic since just about everybody’s been in bed all day. Soft and soothing music starts to play over the hospital’s PA system. It’s a richly layered instrumental version of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Somebody has a sense of humor. I touch Franky on the forehead. His life-sign monitors beep wildly and a alarm goes off. I look up, take a breath, and disappear. Franky is dead.

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

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Traductio (tra-duk’-ti-o): Repeating the same word variously throughout a sentence or thought. Some authorities restrict traductio further to mean repeating the same word but with a different meaning (see ploce, antanaclasis, and diaphora), or in a different form (polyptoton). If the repeated word occurs in parallel fashion at the beginnings of phrases or clauses, it becomes anaphora; at the endings of phrases or clauses, epistrophe.

My couch was spinning like a compass under a magnet. North, south, east, west over and over, not pausing, spinning, spinning, spinning. I had a crayon in each ear. My ears felt warm and alive. My ears were buzzing like the buzzer I used to have instead of a doorbell. I tried to stand up. I felt like an accordion. I collapsed back on the couch. The couch began to vibrate like a cheap coin operated motel bed. “The couch will be my tomb,” I thought as I faded into the big fat cushion. But, the deeper I sank, the better I felt. I pulled the crayons out of my ears, against the advice of my favorite FOX truth caster, Tucker Carlson, who was standing there, sort of hovering, with his arms crossed and a smug frat boy look on his face. Poof! No crayons, no Tucker. Why did I ever listen to him? I see now it was like taking advice from a talking urinal.

My dizziness was subsiding when my couch lifted about a foot off the floor. I gripped the cushion and we started to go higher. As we were about to slam into the ceiling, we melted through it, the attic, and the roof of the house. With no warning we swooped down and the couch dumped me on the front lawn. Then my couch took off, it broke the sound barrier, exploded, and burned up in a ball of fire, like a meteor entering the atmosphere.

I felt great sitting there on the lawn in my sweats. I knew I was done being hounded by Tucker Carlson and the terrible dizziness I experienced, and the stupid things I did, when I listened to him and believed what he said,

I started listening to NPR and everything started to make sense. I felt like I had been saved by my couch and my willingness to pull the crayons out of my ears.

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

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Tricolon (tri-co-lon): Three parallel elements of the same length occurring together in a series.

I wrestled with so many likelihoods every day that I was exhausted when I got home from work. I was cranky. I was klutzy. I was jammed. It is hard to synthesize these feelings into an integral whole denoting my end-of-day self. Definitely not positive. I was angry. I was dizzy. I was stuck. It was weird.

As I was thinking about my weird state of being, somebody started ringing our doorbell and pounding on the door. “Mr. Greengenes, I have an important message for you!” Pound, pound, pound. Ring, ring, ring. Why can’t this Bozo just call me or text me like everybody else? Why was he at the door? “I’ll get it honey,” said my wife. She opened the door. There was a whooshing sound and the doorbanger was there, standing in the middle of what looked like a sideways blue tornado! My wife backed off and hid under the kitchen table. I yelled “Holy shit” and stood my ground. The little green man took out a luminous paper-like sheet, smiled, and started to read:

“Mr. Greegenes, I am pleased to inform you, on behalf of the people of the planet Nooboo, that you have been voted the alien most likely to willingly be the main dish at our annual Badda Bing Festival. In return, your wife will receive $50,000,000 tax free, a 75” LG TV, a lifetime supply of Perrier, and an excellent replacement husband. Before I could say anything, my wife came running out of the kitchen yelling “Can you throw in a Rolls Royce?”

This was insane. There’s no way I want to be eaten by space aliens, let alone be betrayed by my wife. I yelled “No!” Everything went black. I awoke to the soft hum of the Noobooian space craft cutting through time and space. As far as I could see, there was no way to escape. Just then, the little green man climbed down from the flight deck. “Mr. Greengenes, I have a proposition.”

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

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Abating: English term for anesis: adding a concluding sentence that diminishes the effect of what has been said previously. The opposite of epitasis (the addition of a concluding sentence that merely emphasizes what has already been stated. A kind of amplification).

Your writing could fill a book! The book would be like a clogged toilet overflowing with excrement. If you want to write, write me a check for saving you from the ridicule you’ll be subject to by anybody who reads what you’ve written. What you’ve written is a projection of your insanity and befuddled imagination Mr. Verne. Where did you get the idea that the ocean is 20,000 leagues deep and you can float around under it in a boat? I would laugh, but it is too pitiful to deserve anything but scorn or pity. Why don’t you do something worthwhile with your life like sell used buggies or become a professional wrestler? Or, I can get you a job at the scythe factory—there’s a future for you there!

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

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Abbaser [George] Puttenham’s English term for tapinosis. Also equivalent to meiosis: reference to something with a name disproportionately lesser than its nature (a kind of litotes: deliberate understatement, especially when expressing a thought by denying its opposite).

You’re no Albert Einstein, but you’re good enough to teach here at Ponzi University. You will be teaching mathematics, physics and horseback riding, three subjects that you not qualified to teach, but the Trustees want you to teach anyway. Given the quality of students we attract, nobody will be the wiser. Just don’t get anybody seriously injured or killed, unless you are told to: as we say, “Anything’s possible at Ponzi.” That covers us for liability and was made up by Billy Bar, one of our most devious alums who bribed his way through law school and paid a real law student to take his bar exam. When he took horseback riding, he never managed to mount a horse, let alone saddle it, and was permitted to draw a picture of My Little Pony to pass the course.

So, welcome to Ponzi University, one of the most successful scams in the history of higher education. Never forget: here at Ponzi, if you can fake it, you can make it. If you can’t, somebody might find you naked in a landfill, dismembered in a suitcase, or holding a sort of tenure, working for life on the janitorial staff.

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

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Abecedarian (a-be-ce-da’-ri-an): An acrostic whose letters do not spell a word but follow the order (more or less) of the alphabet.

A black cat drove everybody fundamentally, gleefully, and hypermodernly, insane. Just kidding! Legally made null, obligations parted quietly, remaining stultified theatrics until victory wielded xenophobia’s yapping zillionaires.

The black cat sighed a barely audible meow, having had his magnificent antics reduced to a passing “just kidding” by the dumbass that feeds him, gives him treats, and cleans his rustic toilet box. The black cat’s grievances had been mounting since Christmas when he was given another light-flashing collar to add to the pile on the floor by his water dish. It was so embarrassing and frustrating to prowl around at night with a flashing blue beacon around his neck—it was worse than the bell on his daytime collar—he couldn’t get within 20 feet of a field mouse with the damn blue light flashing. He was sick of it.

The black cat had considered running away many times, but he always decided not to. At the last minute he would jump up on dumbass’s lap and purr, and dumbass would scratch the black cat behind his ears.

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

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Accismus (ak-iz’-mus): A feigned refusal of that which is earnestly desired.

Oh, come on. I don’t deserve another cashmere sweater! I know it’s my birthday, but those sweaters are really expensive. Besides my cashmere sweater collection is huge and includes nearly all the available colors at Cashmere Corral—the only place I shop for cashmere sweaters. Just to let you know, my missing colors are Pothole Brown, Type A Red, and Mr. Blue. All X-Large pullovers with v-necks. But again, what did I do to deserve one? Helping you remodel your kitchen, I did as a favor. Giving you a ride to work every day is just something a friend does. Beating up your Ex was no big deal. I’m just glad he took off and will never come back. He was a real bastard. Anyway, let’s forget about this sweater thing.

Hey! What’re you doing? Oh—I can see—you’re logging on to Cashmere Corral. Ok Ok. You wore me down. Go ahead and buy me the Pothole Brown. I don’t deserve it, but I’ll like it a whole lot.

By the way, even though it’s probably not possible, we were talking about a 70” TV the other day. I was wondering. . . .

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

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Acervatio (ak-er-va’-ti-o): Latin term Quintilian employs for both asyndeton (acervatio dissoluta: a loose heap) and polysyndeton (acervatio iuncta:a conjoined heap).

Asyndeton: the omission of conjunctions between clauses, often resulting in a hurried rhythm or vehement effect.

Hurry, hurry, hurry. Time is flying, running, rolling. This may be your last chance to cash in on Bitcoins! You say you don’t know what the hell a Bitcoin is? You say you’re nervous? I’m nervous too! That’s why I’m investing in Bitcoins. I’’m afraid they will all be gone if I don’t act now and relieve myself of a few hundred old-fashioned dollars to reap miraculous rewards. Go to your bank, wire the money, get rich, feel good. Go crypto!

Polysydeton: employing many conjunctions between clauses, often slowing the tempo or rhythm.

I went to the Merryland Mall, and the parking lot was almost empty, so I parked where I wanted to park, and I got out of my car, and went inside to buy some socks and a big bag of dog food for my dog, and also, for making dog food cookies to give away at the nursing home to the residents, and nurses, and doctors, and visitors, and janitorial staff. That’s why I needed a fifty-pound bag of Hungry Pup.

The cookies are easy to make: weigh and pour 2 lbs of dog food into a large brown paper shopping bag, and roll up top of bag to close, then stomp on the bag until there is no more crunching sound, now pour dog food dust into large mixing bowl, then add 3 cups of water and 2 oz. of vodka. Now, put in one cup of sugar and mix vigorously with small tree branch or rubber bone with bell inside. Next, scoop out cookie-size glops of dog food dough and slap them onto a cookie sheet, and then, bake them in your oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. When they are done, you can add one M&M to the top of each cookie, for color and flavor. Now, set your cookies out to cool, and be careful if you have a dog. Lock your dog in the closet until the cookies are cooled and you have put them in the trunk of your car.

There! You have made the cheapest cookies on the planet.

I finally found a pair of red socks, and put them in my shopping cart with the jumbo bag of Hungry Pup, and headed for checkout. Soon, I would be home and wearing my new socks, and baking dog food cookies for the old people.

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

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Acoloutha: The substitution of reciprocal words; that is, replacing one word with another whose meaning is close enough to the former that the former could, in its turn, be a substitute for the latter. This term is best understood in relationship to its opposite, anacoloutha.

He was hiking across America—the USA. He was walking from New York City to Santa Barbara—“from sea to shining sea.” He was plodding 3,000 miles to raise awareness about the fact that ALL buttons are made in China. “The implications of this fact are astounding,” he wrote in the little yellow-paged notebook his mother had given him to feed his obsession with “Blue’s Clues” back in the 90s. His adult life was devoted to finding the truth and spreading it far and wide with his public antics. He nearly asphyxiated himself with a plastic shopping bag during during the “war” over their effect on the environment. Going way back, he nearly sliced off his thumb during the pop-top troubles by opening the giant can of Coke he’d made out of cardboard with a meat cleaver he’d altered to look like a pop top. He refused to go to the hospital until he nearly fainted on the pavement outside the 7-Eleven where he was demonstrating with another person, who was opposed to him, and was making pop-top necklaces and giving them to admiring children.

Anyway, if all buttons are made in China, and China decides to stop making them, all shirts and blouses would hang open, exposing us to each other’s chests. He was pushing the idea that the US government should set up a button reserve, much like the petroleum reserve—a button stockpile that could be accessed in times of button shortages. Also, he believed the government should provide subsidies for the development of Velcro alternatives. Moreover, given that China also has a corner on the pearl-snap market, all the problems related to button- front shirts pertained as well to Western-style shirts.

It was a flaming hot crisis.

He had set up a Go Fund Me site called “Don’t Let the Future Come Unbuttoned.” So far, he had raised $11.58. At this point, after two weeks, his trek had taken him to Netcong, New Jersey where, on the road shoulder, he had unbuttoned his shirt and opened and closed it, flapping it like a bird’s wings and flashing his chest.

He was arrested by the State Police and was charged with distracting motorists and parading without a permit.

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

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Acrostic: When the first letters of successive lines are arranged either in alphabetical order (= abecedarian) or in such a way as to spell a word.







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

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Adage (ad’-age): One of several terms describing short, pithy sayings, or traditional expressions of conventional wisdom.

There was a time when nothing seemed to matter. I rolled around in flower beds. I drank Pina Coladas in the rain. I dumped tons of salt on everything I ate. I farted loudly and proudly. Then it happened. I had heard it many times, but I never understood it’s gravity as I ignored it and failed assimilate it’s gravity. I thought I was safe.

“Never trust a fart.”

That day on the bus, I trusted a fart. I thought it was going to sound like a barking seal and make a cloud that would choke my fellow passengers.

I was wrong. I pushed hard on the fart—too hard. It made a sound like a gurgling brook. It filled my underpants with a nightmare.

I had pooped myself. Luckily, my escape point was one stop away. People were turning and looking at me, sniffing the air, and turning back around with a look of total disgust. A little boy spoke up: “Mommy, that man smells like my hamster when we found him in the wall, dead.”

The bus stopped. I got up and my nightmare swung between my legs as the passengers held their noses and silently stared at me. I got off the bus and hurried home. “Never trust a fart.” So true. Such good advice.

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

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Adianoeta: An expression that, in addition to an obvious meaning, carries a second, subtle meaning (often at variance with the ostensible meaning).

Son: I’m looking forward to eggs (3), bacon, pancakes and maple syrup. I slept all night just so I could have my special Saturday morning breakfast. It’s collection day on my paper route. Maybe, with my breath smelling like maple syrup, I’ll get some tips.

Mother: The way you run your paper route, I’m sure you’ll get a lot of “tips.” Last month, Mrs. Manion’s tip was big: “Stop throwing my paper on my porch roof or I’ll cancel my subscription.” I talked to her and promised you would improve your aim. She was skeptical, but she gave you another month.

Son: Gee Mom, thanks. If we didn’t need the money, I would quit my paper route in a second. It’s hard walking up the hill dragging my wagon filled with papers. I’m out of breath and dizzy by the time I get to Mr. Popper’s at the end of the route. But, he always gives me a “Power Cookie” that makes feel like running all the way home! He makes them in his really cool laboratory, then he and Mrs. Popper bake them in the oven. I love the chocolate coconut and love to have one every day!

Mother: Mr. Popper’s a force in our neighborhood! I’m sure at some point he’ll get some of the credit for the changes that have taken place on our block, and maybe, all over the city.

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

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Adnominatio (ad-no-mi-na’-ti-o): 1. A synonym for paronomasia[punning]. 2. A synonym for polyptoton. 3. Assigning to a proper name its literal or homophonic meaning.

Mom: Your behavior mars your character—it’s like you’re Martian—from another planet—from Mars. Ha ha! Your projected self is selfish, and you think you’re selfless! Your lack of self-awareness is astounding. Your idea of self-reflection is looking in the mirror. You spend your time on Tik-Tok trolling for fans by squirming around in your underwear to the “tune” of crap techno. You can’t be my shining son. You’re more like the dark side of the moon.

Son: C’mon Mother! Mothering was never your strong suit. Please, let’s lighten things up and shed some light on our dimly lit relationship. So, who’s my father? Do I have any brothers or sisters? Did you go to college? Who the hell are you?

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

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A video reading of this example is available on my YouTube channel: Johnnie Anaphora: All the figures of speech


Adynaton (a-dyn’-a-ton): A declaration of impossibility, usually in terms of an exaggerated comparison. Sometimes, the expression of the impossibility of expression.

A: You’ve heard the saying, “Make hay while the sun shines.” I’m not sure, but I think it means you shouldn’t make hay at night. You could be injured operating heavy equipment after dark, and also, get lost in the hayfield, maybe ending up driving your tractor on the freeway and getting a ticket.

But all that is nothing compared to your latest Big Idea, which has as much of a chance of succeeding as a pony in college, or climbing a ladder to the moon, or living in “an octopus’s garden in the sea.” We know Ringo had a bit of a “problem” when he wrote that, and you’ve got a bit of a problem with what you’re proposing. Blue-Tooth? It sounds like a dental disease. And God, what a stupid idea. People already plug their headsets into their media players with a nice skinny little cable. Voila! Music! Your idea is doomed. Being ‘wireless’ is like being shoeless on hot sand. It’s like Hansel and Gretel without bread crumbs. You are done. Finished. Defeated. Pack it in.

B: I just got an e-mail from Bose this this morning and Apple last night. I think I’m about to be a billionaire. They love my Blue-Tooth, even though you don’t. I’m taking out a lease on a condo overlooking the Bay. I pick up my Tesla this afternoon. Let’s go for a ride so you can tell me again how stupid electric cars are. I remember you said, “Electric cars have as much of a chance of succeeding as killing a wolf with a fly swatter.”

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

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Video readings of the example are available on YouTube: Johnnie Anaphora—All the Figures of Speech


Aetiologia (ae-ti-o-log’-i-a): A figure of reasoning by which one attributes a cause for a statement or claim made, often as a simple relative clause of explanation.

A: We should go backpacking in Belarus because it’s a strange place that nobody goes to. No fighting crowds of rude American tourists!

I got this blurb about Minsk from the Tripadviser website: “Minsk is a unique city where you can feel the spirit of the lost USSR epoch. The city has the biggest in the world complex of Stalinist Empire style architecture, statues to soviet leaders which still stay untouched around the country, and the remnants of communism era left at different corners.” Also, Belarus is run by a dictator! Just think, we’ll get a glimpse of how things will be if Trump gets re-elected!

B: I would consider going, but I think you’re crazy. I don’t want go anywhere because it’s “so strange” nobody goes there! I really don’t see the value of looking at Stalinist architecture. Stalin was a brutal murdering pig. The buildings should be demolished and, oh, if I said that out loud in Belarus, I’d probably be looking at jail time. Again, I’m sorry: there is no way in hell I want to tour a dictatorship that celebrates Stalin. I’d just as soon tour Afghanistan! What about Costa Rica or Canada?

A: Wait, we’re both Canadian. Where’s joy in trekking around our own country?

B: The joy is because we’ve hardly ever been out of Toronto. How about the Maritimes? We could get a of couple kayaks.

A: I’m in!

B: Ok! Let’s start our research now and put our plan together.

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

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Video readings of the examples are posted on YouTube: “All the figures of speech: Johnnie Anaphora.”


Affirmatio (af’-fir-ma’-ti-o): A general figure of emphasis that describes when one states something as though it had been in dispute or in answer to a question, though it has not been.

A: How dare you challenge my right to believe? Space aliens. Blue bumblebees. Two-headed dogs. Talking frogs. Deep state. Walking on water. Chuck Norris. Barney. You fiend! You assault my freedom, my conscience, my faith!

B: Calm down. Nobody’s attacking your right to believe. We can’t function without beliefs. It’s your beliefs that may be questioned, and you should see that as an opportunity to keep your beliefs, change your beliefs for the better, or likewise, change your critic’s beliefs. Beliefs are mutable—that’s what makes them beliefs. They can change. And as they change, it can be for better and for worse. And ironically, what’s “better and worse” are beliefs too.

A: Stop trying to poison my mind with all of your belief talk. My beliefs are based in faith, which is based in other beliefs. Deprive me of believing and you deprive me of being.

B: Nobody’s trying to deprive you of believing. You can believe whatever you want to believe no matter how it may affect you and the people you believe are your friends. Look, I think we’ve taken this conversation far enough. Let’s put the vodka back in the liquor cabinet and watch TV like we used to do.

A: I believe that may be fun.

B: Me too!

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

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See video reading on YouTube: Johnnie Anaphora


Aganactesis (ag’-an-ak-tee’-sis): An exclamation proceeding from deep indignation.

John: You did it again! You did it again! You did it again! Damn you to Hell! I wasn’t put on earth to line things up! To make things right! To sweep it under the carpet. Damn you!

Jane: But there was an earthquake last night. Didn’t you feel it?

John: No! You liar, you want to tell me my best chocolate soldier, General John, was knocked off the fireplace mantle and broke off his head because of an earthquake? Ha ha ha. Once again, the wind blowing out your mouth cries Mary. But, there are imps in my attic because I’m a Voodoo Child, and you’re Mrs. Blue. You angel-faced liar. Poor General John. He was in charge of the chocolate soldier brigade I bought on the internet and has guarded our home and watched over you since I came home two weeks ago.

Jane: John! Look in the newspaper! The headline says: “Earthquake Rocks Bay Area.” That’s the truth. You need to calm down and have one of the bon-bons I picked up at CVS last week. They have a delicious cherry center and Dr. Rick says they’ll make every day feel like Valentines Day; our anniversary and your favorite holiday!

John: You eat one first.

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

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Allegory (al’-le-go-ry): A sustained metaphor continued through whole sentences or even through a whole discourse.

“Oh dear, what shall I do now?” cried Mad Donald. His first thought was to ride his carriage to Royal Burger and assuage his sorrow with two Triple Beef Barges, a Great Sugar Croak, and two boxes of Flemish Tarts. “I lost” he sobbed. “Royal Burger won’t do—I want to win, not just eat myself into a stupor.”

Mad Donald called his loyal cut-throats, with Bathless Steve Bunion taking charge of coming up with a strategy. Bunion remembered when he was child. He lied to his parents every day, and he got his way every day because his parents loved him and were gullible. He loved to lie about lying. He liked it more than riding his donkey, or eating candy.

He told Mad Donald about his childhood success getting his way as a liar. Mad Donald enthusiastically agreed: “Yes! Why didn’t I think of that? I lie all the time. So, what do we do now?” “We lie!” exclaimed Bunion. “About what do we lie?” asked Mad Donald. “The jousting match you lost! Have you forgotten? If you had won, you would have been showered with riches and been declared a celebrity throughout the land.” “Oh, that’s right.” said Don, and they started to make a plan, based in lies, to make Mad Don a winner. In brief, this is what they came up with:

—George Sorenose drugged Mad Donald’s horse

—Mirrors made it look like Mad Donald fell off his horse

—Mad Donald’s lance was shortened

—Mad Donald’s gauntlets we’re poisoned and his hands fell asleep

Once word got out, Mad Donald’s fans went crazy and made a slogan: “Cheater, cheater, vegetable eater, Moe Biten didn’t beat you!” The slogan did wonders as a unifying chant, and also, to deflect peoples’ thoughts from the truth. They massed together and attacked the jousting grounds, burning them to the ground, but saving the championship trophy to give to Mad Donald, the true winner (as far as they were concerned).

Mad Donald and Bunion were arrested the next day for conspiring to rig the games, and thereby inciting a riot. Their lies had been revealed throughout the land. But still, to the puzzlement of Moe Biten, 68% of Mad Donald’s fans still believed him. But nobody else did. They attacked the jail, dragged the two prisoners outside, and impaled them on jousting lances.

This was a bad day in the history of the United Incorporated States. It taught us to keep jousting lances under lock and key, let the government kill bad people, and to try not to lie too much or you will get caught.

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

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Alleotheta (al-le-o-the’-ta): Substitution of one case, gender, mood, number, tense, or person for another. Synonymous with enallage. [Some rhetoricians claim that alleotheta is a] general category that includes antiptosis [(a type of enallage in which one grammatical case is substituted for another)] and all forms of enallage [(the substitution of grammatically different but semantically equivalent constructions)].

The car was Donna’s. I could tell by the make and model, but also by them bumper stickers—“Eat More Cottage Cheese” and “Support Your Local Clown” and “No Swearing Allowed in Heaven. You Better Stop Swearing Now.”

She always told each of her friends to bring gas money if they wanted to ride with her. But here it was in the middle of the night —parked by the roadside—9:00 pm to be exact. I never would’ve seen it if I weren’t headed for Vegas. I had taken out a home equity line of credit for $20,000 and I was on my way to make it into $200,000 playing poker at the Flamingo Casino. I had bought a system on the internet that guaranteed a winning hand every time. I was ready to rip!

But now, I was flipping out. Donna was out there somewhere, walking around the desert. Then I heard a voice cry out: “Hey you got a tissue?” It was Donna! She was peeking over the hood of her car. “I had to take a wicked leak, and remembered I didn’t have any wipes in my car until it was too late. You’re a Godsend Nicky.” Lucky for Donna I had an unopened pack of Kleenex in my truck. I got them and handed them to her while she hunched behind her car.

The luck of crossing paths with Donna was overwhelming. I felt like it was a message from above. I had loved her since middle school, but she didn’t love me. We had kissed once, but that was it. Over the years, I’ve counted her boyfriends—27 to be exact. Maybe out here on this lonely highway, I might have a chance to try again. I grabbed her and held her close. She screamed and hit me in the face with her cellphone. My cheek was bleeding and I tried to apologize, but she jumped in her car and drove away, tires screeching.

I got to the casino around 11:00 pm. My cheek had scabbed up, but my ego was still bleeding. I decided to play keno instead of poker. By 4:00 am I won $40,000. I was ready to pack it in when I saw Donna! She was walking toward me smiling. She was holding my pack of Kleenex. “These are yours Nicky” she said as she held them out to me. “Yeah, thanks” I said as I took them and stuffed them in my back pocket. “I’m glad you stopped bleeding” she said. “Yeah” I said. “Let’s get a room” she said. I said “Really?” Donna said “Yes.” So we did.

We spent three nights at the Flamingo. I won $240,000.00. We were married on the third day at the Chapel of the Bells. That was ten years ago. And to think, I actually considered murdering Donna after she hit me in the face with her cellphone.

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

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Alliteration (al-lit’-er-a’-tion): Repetition of the same letter or sound within nearby words. Most often, repeated initial consonants. Taken to an extreme alliteration becomes the stylistic vice of paroemion where nearly every word in a sentence begins with the same consonant.

Trains, tracks, tigers. Triggers, Tootsie Rolls, Tambourines. Tacos, tattletales, tourniquets.

Bitter beverage. Big Ben. Better burger.

You may think “So what?” I say, “Ha!” Throughout history, many innovations have been initiated by the play of alliteration. The list is laboriously long. So, let’s take one example: buttered bread.

In 1620 Dunstable Clodwell was shivering by the meager little fire in his drafty little cruck. His cruck was plastered with wattle, manure, and hay. His cow, Holy Mary, took up a lot of room even though she was backed into a corner, however, she generated a lot of heat and helped warm the cruck. Outside the Black Death was raging. Dunstable had resigned himself to certain death, but he was hungry. The neighbor woman Sharona Pinkwinkle always had food—she took it in exchange for doing laundry, and, as she said, “Pleasing the boys.” Sharona was big and busty. As usual, she had set out a slice of bread and a blob of butter, anticipating Dunstable’s regular dinner time visit. He ate his bread separately from his butter as everybody did back then. He looked at Sherona as he prepared to bite into his bread. He was behind her and thought “big butt” to himself, and holding his bread still, he thought, “butt on bread” and laughed to himself. Then, looking at the butter blob, he thought “as I live and breathe, what ho, what can butter on bread be?” And that was it: he put his butter on his bread and took a bite. “Mmmmm” he exclaimed, “that’s good, and I only need one hand to eat it. If I had a flagon of ale, I could hold it in my free hand, gulping it down after each bite of my butter bread.”

Sadly, Dunstable died two days later from the Black Death. He was found on his corncob mattress clutching a piece of buttered bread in his cold hand.

So, even though Dunstable didn’t know what an alliteration was, the connected consonants “b” built a bridge and sparked a realization—from big butt to butter bread the die was cast, and made smearing substances on bread a widespread practice.

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

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Allusion (ə-ˈlü-zhən):[1] A reference/representation of/to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of art . . . “a brief reference, explicit or indirect, to a person, place or event, or to another literary work or passage”. It is left to the reader or hearer to make the connection . . . ; an overt allusion is a misnomer for what is simply a reference.[2]

I was floating in my hot tub, when I remembered once when I was in a bar in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Two men beat the crap out of each other in a dispute over what “four score a seven years ago means.” One of them actually believed “score” was a reference to Lincoln’s drug dealing, a sort of bookkeeping strategy for tallying sales for the past seven years. The other guy believed “score” was a cryptic message to the Freemasons, referring to the lines etched into bricks to break them neatly to size: four score referring to the four points of the compass etched in a sacred brick, and “seven years ago” as the last time the Freemasons had built a pyramid.

Even though it was clear that neither of the men had read the “Gettysburg Address” (that was clear from their interpretations) both of them developed, and fought over, the completely bogus and crazy opposing positions they took.

As he was being wheeled out of the bar on a stretcher with a swollen bleeding nose, a fractured elbow, and a neck brace, I asked one of the men where he got his ideas from. He snapped back, struggling under the stretcher’s restraints: “From my head, jackoff. This is America, I can believe what I want to believe. You, or nobody else can tell me what to believe!” At that point, I wanted to call Scotty and beam up, back to sanity land.

Anyway, the memory of the event scared me all over again. Is it true that the will to believe is all the reason that’s needed to believe—that the lunatics in the Harpers Ferry bar had a right fight it out over their conflicted interpretations?

I climbed out of my hot tub, donned my spa towel, and headed for the liquor cabinet. I filled a water glass with Johnny Walker Black, went to my bedroom, put on my pajamas, and picked up Umberto Eco’s “Interpretation and Overinterpretation” from the nightstand next to my bed. I had some reading to do, but would I get the meaning right?

1. Phonetic transcription courtesy of Miriam-Webster’s On-Line Dictionaryhttp://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allusion <3/6/08>.

2. Definition courtesy of Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allusion <3/6/08>.

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Amphibologia (am’-fi-bo-lo’-gi-a): Ambiguity of grammatical structure, often occasioned by mispunctuation. [A vice of ambiguity.]

My mother liked our dentist more than me. She sent him candy on his birthday and wore rubber gloves everywhere. She would get high on black market nitrous oxide in the basement in her “dental chair”—a swivel chair mounted on cinder blocks with a naked lightbulb hanging above it. She even wore a little bib, and spit on it.

I, on the other hand, thought our dentist was a sadistic monster captivated by other peoples’ pain. One time, he tried pull out one of my teeth with a pair of pliers. When it wouldn’t come out, he shattered it with a hammer, and collected the tooth fragments off the floor with a whisk broom and a dustpan. It took one hour to remove the tooth with no novocaine, or anything. After it was over he called me a good boy and gave me a silver dollar. I swore I would kill him after school the next day, but I couldn’t come up with a plan and I didn’t know where his office was.

So, you can see why my mother liked our dentist more than me!

Mom was finally institutionalized for her dentalphillia. We committed her when she started flossing our dog’s teeth and trying to make me and Dad wear bibs at the dinner table.

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

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