Monthly Archives: October 2014


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?

  • Post your own dilemma on the “Comments” page!

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.

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.

  • Post your own dirimens copulatio on the “Comments” page!

Definition and commentary courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


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.

  • Post your own disntinctio on the “Comments” page!

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


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.

  • Post your own distributio on the “Comments” page!

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


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

Pat: “My head is on fire!”

Sam: “So is your imagination.”

  • Post your own ecphonesis on the “Comments” page!

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (


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.

  • Post your own effictio on the “Comments” page!

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (