Monthly Archives: January 2008


Metalepsis (me-ta-lep’-sis): Reference to something by means of another thing that is remotely related to it, either through a farfetched causal relationship, or through an implied intermediate substitution of terms. Often used for comic effect through its preposterous exaggeration. A metonymical substitution of one word for another which is itself figurative.

You’re such a shoe head–Birkenstock, Gucci, Puma, Nike, Bass, Timberland, Crocs, Nine West, Marc Jacobs, ECCO, Zanotti, Clergerie, Vacini. Yikes! Your closet looks like Zappos’s website!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Mesodiplosis (mes-o-dip-lo’-sis): Repetition of the same word or words in the middle of successive sentences.

We didn’t win today, and I’m not going to give up. Today, we haven’t achieved our highest hopes, and I’m not going to feel disheartened. I am not the winner today, and I’m not going to be the loser tomorrow. It isn’t over yet.  There’s a long way to go. We will prevail. We will win.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Hysterologia (his-ter-o-lo’-gi-a): A form of hyperbaton or parenthesis in which one interposes a phrase between a preposition and its object.  Also, a synonym for hysteron proteron.

We sent a package filled with her favorite goodies to (with love and affection) our wonderful daughter. We miss her.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

Inter se pugnantia

Inter se pugnantia (in’-ter-say-pug-nan’-ti-a): Using direct address to reprove someone before an audience, pointing out the contradictions in that person’s character, often between what a person does and says.

You say you’re committed to working on behalf of the American people.  Yet, when we look at your voting record, it seems that you consistently support legislation that favors the haves and leaves out the have-nots.  The “American people” means all of us. Why divide the American people when you can unite the American people by serving their common interests–pushing for affordable health care, educational opportunities, a healthy environment, and world peace. In short, by pushing for a better future for all of us.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Hypallage (hy-pal’-la-ge): Shifting the application of words. Mixing the order of which words should correspond with which others. Also, sometimes, a synonym for metonymy.

Our starry singing rose to meet the jubilant sky.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Paenismus (pai-nis’-mus): Expressing joy for blessings obtained or an evil avoided.

I am so thankful that I made no moves in the stock market last week–I was ‘this close’ to selling! Close call!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Onedismus (on-e-dis’-mus): Reproaching someone for being impious or ungrateful.

Don’t ask me what I’ve done for you lately!  Instead, you better ask what you’ve done for me! How about just saying thanks for once?

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


Exuscitatio (ex-us-ci-ta’-ti-o): Stirring others by one’s own vehement feeling (sometimes by means of a rhetorical question, and often for the sake of exciting anger).

How many times do we have to be told “Not yet”? How many times do we have to stand outside in the cold and be told “Wait your turn”? Well, it is your turn–it’s always your turn when truth and justice open the door wide so everybody has a chance to go on through. Let’s call on truth and justice to open that door–let’s hope they come and hold it open so we don’t have to tear it off its hinges!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Metastasis (me-tas’-ta-sis): Denying and turning back on your adversaries arguments used against you.

You say I asserted that Richard Nixon was the twentieth century’s greatest President. That is simply untrue. Watch the interview–it’s on MSNBC’s website. But you, on the other hand, in your book, said exactly what you’re accusing me of saying.  Look it up–page 126.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Metallage (me-tal’-la-gee): When a word or phrase is treated as an object within another expression.

Finally, we don’t have any more “Stay the course.”

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Mempsis (memp’-sis): Expressing complaint and seeking help.

Something is very wrong and it needs a lot of fixing. You work hard, yet you can’t afford college for your children. You work hard, yet you can’t afford health insurance for your children. In some cases, even though you work hard–maybe even at two jobs–you can’t provide your children with a nice place to live.  And what’s worse, you can’t even look your children straight in the eye and say, “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be all right.” Well, the only way to make everything all right–to make it better–is to join together and help me help you make everything all right. In less than a year, with your vote, we can turn things around. The future can be better.  I need your help. But, I need your help now. I need to be on that ballot in November if we’re going make everything all right.  So,  . . .

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Inopinatum (in-o-pi-na’-tum): The expression of one’s inability to believe or conceive of something; a type of faux wondering. As such, this kind of paradox is much like aporia and functions much like a rhetorical question or erotema. [A paradox is] a statement that is self-contradictory on the surface, yet seems to evoke a truth nonetheless.

What are the top three things I can’t even imagine?

Number three:  I can’t imagine a world without taxes.

Number two: I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have a credit card.*

Number one: I can’t imagine what it would be like not to imagine what I can’t imagine.

*My 14-year-old daughter just told me she doesn’t have a credit card and she knows what it’s like: I buy her stuff with my credit card.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.


Meiosis (mei-o’-sis): Reference to something with a name disproportionately lesser than its nature (a kind of litotes). This term is equivalent to tapinosis.

We’ve got to cross those mountains to get to California?  Hey–they’re just a couple of snow-capped bumps on the trail. Right?

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Medela (me-de’-la): When you can’t deny or defend friends’ faults and seek to heal them with good words.

You’ve got to stop saying things like that–you must, even after all these years, try to find a way to hold your tongue.  Your enthusiasm is what we need. What we don’t need are the misdirected outbursts.  They don’t help.  Go home for awhile, get some rest, spend some quality time with your family, and think it over. We need you, and you’ve always been there when we’ve needed you. We’ll see you in Florida in a little while. Keep the faith. Give my best to your wonderful wife and kids. Get some R&R.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Martyria (mar-tir’-i-a): Confirming something by referring to one’s own experience.

She keeps referring to her 35 years of experience as a reason to vote for her. Well, I have experience too, and what’s more, I learned something from it–how to bring people together, inspire confidence, and make lasting positive change.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

Hysteron Proteron

Hysteron Proteron (his’-ter-on pro’-ter-on): Disorder of time. (What should be first, isn’t.)

The car smashed into the tree. It skidded off the road. He fell asleep at the wheel. He was killed instantly. He told his wife not to wait up for him–that he’d be home before sunrise.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Horismus (hor-is’-mus): Providing a clear, brief definition, especially by explaining differences between associated terms.

The future, unlike the present, is yet to come, and the past is gone forever. Tomorrow. Today. Yesterday. The sum of all time.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Homoioptoton (ho-mee-op-to’-ton): The repetition of similar case endings in adjacent words or in words in parallel position.

Note: Since this figure only works with inflected languages, it has often been conflated with homoioteleuton and (at least in English) has sometimes become equivalent to simple rhyme: “To no avail, I ate a snail”

This is a long and difficult campaign trail. As I travel this troublesome road I will not fail. No matter where it takes me–through the lands of indecision and even the hamlets of hatred–I will prevail.  For your hope is my travail. I will bear the burden of your dreams everywhere I go. Their weight will make me stronger.  Their beauty will feed my hunger for truth and sustain me as I go forth to find a way to bring us all back home.

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Definition and commentary courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Expeditio (ex-pe-di’-ti-o): After enumerating all possibilities by which something could have occurred, the speaker eliminates all but one (=apophasis). Although the Ad Herennium author lists expeditio as a figure, it is more properly considered a method of argument [and pattern of organization] (sometimes known as the “Method of Residues” when employed in refutation[, and “Elimination Order” when employed to organize a speech. The reference to ‘method’ hearkens back to the Ramist connection between organizational patterns of discourses and organizational patterns of arguments]).

Where did you get that beautiful diamond ring? No, don’t tell me–let me guess. Either you bought it, found it, stole it, or somebody gave it to you.  Now, let’s see . . . There’s no way you’d buy something like that for yourself–you’re the cheapest person I know.  If you found it, I know you’d would’ve handed it over to lost and found–at any rate you wouldn’t be showing it off like it’s yours–you’d be telling everybody you found it and you’d be looking for its owner. There’s no way you’d ever steal anything–I’ve known you since we were kids. So, all I can say is: Who gave it to you? What’s up? Wow! Life is good!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.


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 President is the Decider, the Vice President likes to decide what the Decider decides, hoping that the Supreme Court will decide to side with the Decider, while Congress often takes so many sides it can’t decide, and everybody else is undecided, except the Pundits, who get their information from insiders (who’re all on somebody’s side) and pollsters (who’re on the outside).

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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.

Not only should one tell the truth, but also, one should be prepared to lie when lying is warranted. Let me explain how this pertains to . . .

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Definition and commentary courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Exergasia (ex-er-ga’-si-a): Repetition of the same idea, changing either its words, its delivery, or the general treatment it is given. A method for amplification, variation, and explanation. As such, exergasia compares to the progymnasmata exercises (rudimentary exercises intended to prepare students of rhetoric for the creation and performance of complete practice orations).

The time has come for change. Now we have the opportunity to repair what is broken and that has broken many of our hearts. Today we are ready to pick up the pieces together, and face toward the future together, with renewed optimism, trust, compassion, and love.

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Paraprosdokian: a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase [or series = anticlimax] is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe the first part. . . . For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists. An especially clever paraprosdokian not only changes the meaning of an early phrase, but also plays on the double meaning of a particular word.(1)

If at first you don’t succeed, find something easier to do.

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1. “Paraprosdokian.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 4 Jan 2008, 03:30 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 Jan 2008 <>.


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 for purposes of clearly identifying an alleged criminal. It has often been adapted to poetical uses.

He had spiky yellow-gray hair with a red stripe running through it. His big blue eyes were bloodshot.  He was skinny, slumped, and dressed in a black t-shirt with a big leering skull on it, torn blue jeans, and dull black boots. He had an empty styrofoam cup in his shaking hand. He pushed it at me as I walked toward him.”Spare change?”

His scratchy voice sounded familiar.

Unbelievable! My best buddy from high school–class of 1998!  He didn’t recognize me. I barely recognized him. He looked right through me. I hauled out my wallet and . . .

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


Auxesis (ok-see’-sis): (1) Arranging words or clauses in a sequence of increasing force. In this sense, auxesis is comparable to climax and has sometimes been called incrementum.  (2) A figure of speech in which something is referred to in terms disproportionately large (a kind of exaggeration or hyperbole). (3) Amplification in general.

(1) I am worried by the fact that he’s running for office. I am frightened by the possibility that he may win the primary. I am terrified by what may happen if he actually gets elected.

(2) I love that little deli–they put a million slices of corned beef on their reubens!

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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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