Litotes (li-to’-tees): Deliberate understatement, especially when expressing a thought by denying its opposite. The Ad Herennium author suggests litotes as a means of expressing modesty (downplaying one’s accomplishments) in order to gain the audience’s favor (establishing ethos).
I shouldn’t be here today. The banquet you’ve set, the adulation you’ve expressed have moved me nearly beyond words. When Ed called me “a regular Superman,” I wanted to hide under my table. Instead, Jim and Carl carried me up here to the podium in that sedan chair over there. I am so embarrassed—I’m not royalty. I’m just an ordinary guy—a very ordinary guy. Look at me for God’s sake: average height, average looks, average body, average shoe size, average hands. I am average all over, from top to bottom, from side to side. And Joe, you were way off base when you called a saint. Saints perform miracles. Do you really think that what I did was a miracle? I don’t think so, and neither should you. And Ann, you said that without people like me, the world would end. I don’t think so. Without people like me, the world would go on as it always has as a site of hope and fear, and all the other binary pairs that motivate people to act.
I awoke today to be confirmed by my peers as a hero at this beautiful celebration. One month ago I wasn’t a hero—confirmed or not. I did what I did because the world cried out to me—in fact—it screamed to me. It said: “Do something for me!” I listened. But, I did not know what to do. So, I asked my girlfriend, Eden. She told me I should do something nice. I asked what that meant. She told me that nice things benefit other people, but I needed to beware: just because I might think something’s nice, it may not seem nice to somebody else. This struck fear into my heart, giving me mild chest pains, and freezing me into inaction: I was afraid I would make a fool of myself. So, I sat on my saggy couch. Eden sat next to me. We sat in silence until the sun started to set and evening’s shadows started to inch their way across the living room carpet. My chest pains had subsided, and so had the fear (to some extent).
I stood up and pulled down my pants and yelled “Do it yourself!” at the world. I hobbled out to my front porch and yelled “Do it yourself!” My neighbor across the street came out onto his front porch, pulled down his pants and yelled “Do it yourself!” It was Fourth of July Weekend, so everybody was home. Soon, the yelling grew into a roar. “Do it yourself!” became a slogan for a social movement that has swept the world in one short month. With social media’s help, it took off like a big beautiful bird. Now, here we are celebrating the demise a charity—of giving generously with no hope of recompense, or reward. All I did was fan the flames of the fire of selfishness that’ve been burning since the beginning of time. Where do we go from here? I really don’t care. Let’s eat, drink, and be merry and work out the ironies and contradictions later! Here’s to the haves, to hell with the have nots. Here’s to “Do it yourself!”
The banquet ended. The guests left the hall. I was beginning to think that my front porch outburst had really made a mess of things. We were headed for a world without love or compassion. I told Eden to drag me home in my sedan chair. She yelled, “Do it yourself!” I pulled out my Taser and walked slowly toward her.
Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).
Buy a print edition of The Daily Trope! The print edition is entitled The Book of Tropes and is available on Amazon for $9.99. A Kindle edition is available for $5.99.