Hendiadys (hen-di’-a-dis): Expressing a single idea by two nouns [joined by a conjunction] instead of a noun and its qualifier. A method of amplification that adds force.

Tooth and nail. They went at it “tooth and nail”? What? Somebody must’ve landed at the dentist’s. Maybe it was a saw. They have teeth, and two people with saws and nails, fighting it out, would certainly project a discomfiting image of conflict. If I was in that fight I’d much rather be going “spike and tooth” than using only a 4d box nail. You can’t do much damage with a box nail—poke out an eye, scratch the skin or get in little stabs that may, in their sum, be fatal. Anyway, there’s room for improvement in the image. How about “They went at it saw and nail?” Better, how about “They want at it chain saw and nail gun?”

Now we’re getting somewhere: severed limbs, nails like porcupine quills sticking out of each other’s heads. That’s the stuff great movies are made of. Just think: Warriors carrying nail guns and chain saws go up against marauding hordes of Neolithic-looking madmen carrying only clubs and flimsy animal skin shields. But they have a secret weapon: jumping dogs with teeth like sabers and claws like daggers. Only the size of Chihuahuas, they jump on your head, tear off the top, and eat your brains. The only defense is a well-placed nail or a sweeping pass with a chain saw at full rev.

Sadly, the Neolithic-looking hordes will win. Their leader Clogloo will hold up a bloody pate bowl and drink the steaming grey goop from it chanting “Winners and losers, win and lose.”

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

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