This blog is for people who have a taste for rhetoric, and particularly, its canon of elocutio, lexis, or style–of word-choice & wordplay and the panoply of schemes and tropes that have, since antiquity, been crafted, appreciated, cataloged, and taught by the practice of imitatio.
The Daily Trope has two divisions–one peripheral–one central:
1. The Sidebar (peripheral)
2. The Front Page (central).
1. The Sidebar
On the periphery of the The Daily Trope there’s a Blogroll & an Archive.
- BLOGROLL: This feature is devoted to linking to other sites on the web that are oriented toward rhetoric. The top posting on the Blogroll links to Gorgias’s other online project: Rhetorical Trinkets. Rhetorical Trinkets is Gorgias’s online store selling rhetorically-oriented & emblazoned stuff including mugs, t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, tote bags, ties, hats, and more. Since antiquity, making a few drachma from rhetoric’s ‘ways and means’ is not unheard of. The “Trinkets” site follows this tradition. So far, it has been completely unsuccessful as a source of income for Gorgias. Maybe you can change that.
- ARCHIVE: A monthly log of posts.
2. The Front Page
In accord with the site’s name–The Daily Trope–each day (if I’m able) I’ll post a fresh figure of speech on “The Front Page”–including its definition and an example I’ve created (unless the figure requires quotation). I encourage readers to create and post their own examples of each day’s figure on the “Comments” page. So, I invite Daily Trope readers to be writers: readers-writers (or writers-readers). Readers may also wish to post examples drawn from contemporary and other discourses. If you post an example from contemporary or other discourse on the “Comments” page, please cite its source. If your example is in Latin or Greek, or some other language, please provide an English translation. As I move through the catalog of figures of speech extant in the rhetorical tradition, at some point I will have posted them all! When that happens, in order to keep The Daily Trope daily, I will begin cycling back through the catalog.
A given figure’s posting does not mean that I endorse it or think that it’s especially rhetorically effective. This applies to the examples that I create (or cite) as well! Also, in some cases a given figure’s example may include other figures. For example, a proverb may include a metaphor and a pun (and more). Where multiple figures are presented by a given example, I have decided not to note them. Nevertheless, it is worth noting here that defining rhetorical figures and classifying their examples is itself a rhetorical act that plays to rhetoric’s meaning-making function.
Most of the the rhetorical figures and their definitions are drawn from Silva Rhetoricae–a website created and maintained by Dr. Gideon Burton. Silva Rhetoricae is an excellent source of information about rhetoric–among other things, it lists hundreds of figures of speech and includes additional examples created by Dr. Burton or cited by him from a variety of literatures. If you want to learn more about rhetoric and the figures posted on The Daily Trope, go to Silva Rhetoricae right now! But wait! Make sure to check out American Rhetoric too–another excellent site devoted to all things rhetorical–it includes video and sound clips and full texts of numerous speeches. Also, don’t forget to check out Wikipedia‘s article about rhetoric. Last, The Daily Trope‘s blogroll (Links) will take you to many, many, many rhetorical places–take some time–visit the sites–I think you may enjoy the adventure!
Moving right along . . .
As you attempt to create your own examples of the day’s figure you may find that the activity of making a figure of speech will prompt you to think along lines that you otherwise may never have considered. That is, the rhetorical canon of style is not solely about embellishing an already-formed idea or insight set in so-called “literal” or “plain” speech (plain speech is, itself, a rhetorically purposeful construction). Forming figures of speech may enable you to form new ideas and insights from the play of words prompted by a given figure’s form and the rhetorical act of authorship (or the figure’s uptake as a reader, listener, or observer). In addition, experimenting with the play of speech may enable you to find your voice or change your character. After all, ways of speaking (and ways of listening) are ways of being.
As you engage in the play of elocutio, you may develop a more expansive and complex concept of rhetoric’s possibilities. As you experience rhetoric’s prospect for engendering fresh insights and changing your outlook in edifying ways, you may find it more difficult to use the word “rhetoric” solely to describe ethically flawed, vacuous, or otherwise illicit discourses. In short, there’s good rhetoric and bad rhetoric, but there is always rhetoric where there are meanings–no matter what their medium of symbolization is. That is, as Kenneth Burke rightly pointed out, where there is persuasion, there is rhetoric, and where there is rhetoric there is meaning. Meaning operates rhetorically in service of persuasion as far as it orients people toward the past, the present, and the future (and everything else). Meanings prompt judgments, engender qualities of experience, and induce actions. They are elements of persuasion that may be rhetorically crafted and rhetorically played in deliberations with your conscience, companions, compatriots and everybody else. In addition, meanings are neither necessary nor arbitrary–they are mutable–they are alchemical–they change as they are vexed by experience: cut by hope and fear, refined by life’s fire, ground by memory’s pestle, and shared at sites of decision in all phases of our quest for practical wisdom. Sometimes they nourish. Sometimes they poison. Sometimes.
I believe that the paradigm case of bad rhetoric is deeply ironic–I believe that bad rhetoric is rhetoric’s use to disparage rhetoric by persuasively fixing rhetoric’s cultural meaning in association with the negative; as if persuading and being persuaded–as if the techniques of enabling belief, decision, and action–somehow always inevitably lead to error. For example, when a speaker says that her or his opponent should “stop the rhetoric and get to the reality,” the utterance is itself an instance of rhetoric! It is a rhetorical act of admonition apparently intended to induce a change in the opponent’s behavior, but more importantly, it may intend to undermine the opponent’s credibility for being a speaker of “mere” rhetoric–another ironic employment of rhetoric to denigrate rhetoric by rhetorically positioning rhetoric as inferior to some other kind of speech that is not merely rhetorical! As a rhetorical act, it makes its case from the audience’s deeply cultured assumptions about rhetoric’s negative valence, summoning the rhetorical power of the word’s commonplace perjoritive meaning to purge an opponent’s character while at the same time (secretly? unconsciously? tactically? stupidly?) administering the same “poison” as a cure! Instead of using “rhetoric” as a code-word for (among other things) ethically flawed speech, it would be more to the point to say that ethically flawed speech may be an instance of rhetoric’s misuse, and that critically engaging ethically flawed speech is a rhetorical act that is laudable as far as it may generally cultivate well-founded judgments and well-considered decisions.
In the spirit of Isocrates, I believe that the paradigm case of good rhetoric is its use in particular cases to generally form well-founded judgments and generally make well-considered decisions where absolute certainty is not possible and is not sought by sane people. In addition, it is always within the purview of good rhetoric to ask, beyond the scene of the particular case: What generally makes a judgment well-founded and what generally makes a decision well-considered?
In short, rhetoric at its best enables fallible beings (aka humans) to cope with the uncertainties of everyday life. Rhetoric at its worst induces the belief that there is a problem-solving calculus suited to the particular quandaries of everyday life that is not rhetorical–that is, instead, oracular–that, operating from a position of omniscience, unerringly dictates the right answer to life’s omnipresent question:
Again, rhetoric at its best may induce the belief that there are many answers to the question of what’s next–some are better than others and it is up to us to deliberate and decide what is best in the full realization that an apology may be in order after all is said and done–that is, in a weird way, what’s next may be contingent on what’s next as a site of penultimate longing for closure and rest–for a sort of living death–unless (of course) one is thrilled by this rhetorical situation we’re in–a thrill that is felt as a continuous desire to participate in the construction and actualization of what’s next by giving full play to one’s capacity to persuade and be persuaded: to use (and risk misusing) symbols as an actor on the stage of life’s play–as Kenneth Burke rightly reminds us–life is drama!
As a drama, so far, what would the title of your life’s play be–what, as Kenneth Burke would ask, is the master motive that you may avow (or that others may impute) as you account for your actions–as you construe your character? “Me Against the World”? “The Mover and Shaker”? “Just Another Pest”? “Humanity’s Hope”? “The Great Comformer”? “The Story of Cosmic Nuttyhead”? “The Fat Cat”? “The Darned Decider”? “The Overlooked One”? “The Great Manipulator”? Whatever that title may be–to be sure–it may construct and project the meaning of your life (so far)–a meaning that is mutable as far as your life’s final scene has yet to be played!
Well, I guess, that’s ‘life’ (and ‘death’) in Rhetoric City–where the truth doesn’t speak for itself–where citizens may look forward to reading The Daily Trope‘s “Front Page” eager for news of Elocutio’s continuing adventures.
Given all of the above, it is important to admit my imperfection. There may be examples offered that do not correctly exemplify a given scheme or trope. If you find one or more, I would appreciate it if you brought it/them to my attention, showing respect for my fallibility.