Asteismus (as-te-is’-mus): Polite or genteel mockery. More specifically, a figure of reply in which the answerer catches a certain word and throws it back to the first speaker with an unexpected twist. Less frequently, a witty use of allegory or comparison, such as when a literal and an allegorical meaning are both implied.

Rudy: I can’t help but thinking you’re a fool to talk like that to the President.

Dennis: Then, my friend, I’ve fooled you.

Rudy: What kind of fool would play the fool?

Dennis: The one that’s in this play called ‘politics’–where pretense bears the weight of being earnest and speech is more likely to be heard when spoken by a cocksure jerk–apparently unaffected–directly to the face of power!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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