effectio | ellipsis | encomium | energia | enthymeme | epanalepsis | epicrisis | epideictic | epimone | epiphora | epiplexis | epithet | epizeuxis | erotesis | ethopoeia | ethos | euphemism | euphuism | exergasia | exuscitatio | fable | figures of speech | gradatio
effectio [effictio] — Personal description; head-to-toe inventory of a person’s charms.
See Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130
“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size . . .
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips . . .
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
The joy in my feet . . .
It’s the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breast,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
(Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman”)
ellipsis — Omission of one or more words, which much be supplied by the listener or reader. [Gk. “a falling short”]
“If youth knew, if age could.” (Henri Estienne)
“True stories deal with hunger, imaginary ones with love.” (Raymond Queneau)
“Twenty-two years old, weak, hot, frightened, not daring to acknowledge the
fact that he didn’t know who or what he was . . . with no past, no language,
no tribe, no source, no address book, no comb, no pencil, no clock, no
pocket handkerchief, no rug, no bed, no can opener, no faded postcard, no
soap, no key, no tobacco pouch, no soiled underwear and nothing nothing
nothing to do . . . he was sure of one thing only: the unchecked monstrosity
of his hands.” (Toni Morrison, Sula)
encomium — Eulogy in prose or verse glorifying people, objects, ideas, or events. [Gk. “praise”]
See Gray’s “Hymn to Adversity” and Wordsworth’s “Ode to Duty.”
“Farewell dear babe, my heart’s too much content,
Farewell sweet babe, the pleasure of mine eye,
Farewell fair flower that for a space was lent,
Then ta’en away unto eternity.
Blest babe . . ..”
(Anne Bradstreet, “In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet, Who
Deceased August, 1665, Being a Year and Half Old”)
energia — Generic term for a visually powerful description that vividly recreates something or someone in words. [Gk. “Vigor of style”]
“Mornings, a transparent pane of ice lies over the meltwater. I peer through
and see some kind of waterbug-perhaps a leech-paddling like a sea turtle
between green ladders of lakeweed. Cattails and sweetgrass from the previous
summer are bone dry, marked with black mold spots, and bend like elbows into
the ice. They are swords that cut away the hard tenancy of winter. At the
wide end a mat of dead waterplants has rolled back into a thick, impregnable
breakwater. Near it, bubbles trapped under the ice are lenses focused
straight up to catch the coming season.” (Gretel Ehrlich, “Spring”)
enthymeme — An informally stated syllogism with an implied premise. [Gk. “piece of reasoning”]
See Aristotle’s discussion of enthymeme in Rhetoric.
“Mark’d ye his words? He would not take the crown. Therefore ’tis certain he
was not ambitious.” (Julius Caesar III.ii)
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou thinkst thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow
And soonest our best men with thee do go
Rest of their bones and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppies or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke. Why swellst thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die!”
(John Donne, “Holy Sonnet X”)
epanalepsis — Repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurred at the beginning of the clause.
“Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.”
(Robert Frost, “The Gift Outright”)
epicrisis — Circumstance in which a speaker quotes a passage and comments on it. [Gk. “judgment”]
“When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone, whatever they [Vichy
France] did, their generals told the Prime Minister and his divided
Cabinet, ‘In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’
Some chicken! Some neck!” (Churchill to Canadian Parliament in WWII)
epideictic (Pronunciation: “eh pi DIKE tick”) — One of Aristotle’s major divisions of rhetoric: oratory that praises or blames.
” . . . ADAMS and JEFFERSON, I have said, are no more. As human beings,
indeed, they are no more. They are no more, as in 1776, bold and fearless
advocates of independence; no more, as at subsequent periods, the head of
the government; nor more, as we have recently seen them, aged and venerable
objects of admiration and regard. They are no more. They are dead. But how
little is there of the great and good which can die! To their country they
yet live, and live for ever. They live in all that perpetuates the
remembrance of men on earth; in the recorded proofs of their own great
actions, in the offspring of their intellect, in the deep-engraved lines of
public gratitude, and in the respect and homage of mankind. They live in
their example; and they live, emphatically, and will live, in the influence
which their lives and efforts, their principles and opinions, now exercise,
and will continue to exercise, on the affairs of men,
not only in their own country but throughout the civilized world. A superior
and commanding human intellect, a truly great man, when Heaven vouchsafes so
rare a gift, is not a temporary flame, burning brightly for a while, and
then giving place to returning darkness. It is rather a spark of fervent
heat, as well as radiant light, with power to enkindle the common mass of
human kind; so that when it glimmers in its own decay, and finally goes out
in death, no night follows, but it leaves the world all light, all on fire
from the potent contact of its own spirit. Bacon died; but the human
understanding, roused by the touch of his miraculous wand to a perception of
the true philosophy and the just mode of inquiring after truth, has kept on
its course successfully and gloriously. Newton died; yet the courses of the
spheres are still known, and they yet move on by the laws which he
discovered, and in the orbits which he saw, and described for
them, in the infinity of space.
“No two men now live, fellow-citizen, perhaps it may be doubted whether any
two men have ever lived in one age, who, more than those we now commemorate,
have impressed on mankind their own opinions more deeply into the opinions
of others, or given a more lasting direction to the current of human
thought. Their work doth not perish with them. The tree which they assisted
to plant will flourish, although they water it and protect it no longer; for
it has struck its roots deep, it has sent them to the very centre; no storm,
not of force to birth the orb, can overturn it; its branches spread wide;
they stretch their protecting arms broader and broader, and its top is
destined to reach the heavens. . . .”
(Daniel Webster, “On the Occasion of the Deaths of Adams and Jefferson” 1826)
epimone (Pronunciation: “eh PIM o nee” … Gk. “tarrying, delay”) — Frequent repetition of a phrase or question; dwelling on a point.
“Who is here so base that would be a bondman? If any, speak; for him I have
offended. Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If any speak; for
him have I offended.” (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar III.ii)
“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice–they won’t hear you otherwise–“I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell; “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say
anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone.
“Find the most comfortable position: seated, stretched out, curled up, or lying flat. Flat on your back, on your side, on your stomach. In an easy chair, on the sofa, in the rocker, the deck chair, on the hassock. In the hammock, if you have a hammock. On top of your bed, of course, or in the bed. You can even stand on your hands, head down, in the yoga position. With the book upside down, naturally.”Of course, the ideal position for reading is something you can never find. In the old days they used to read standing up, at a lectern. People were accustomed to standing on their feet, without moving. They rested like that when they were tired of horseback riding. Nobody ever thought of reading on horseback; and yet now, the idea of sitting in the saddle, the book propped against the horse’s mane, or maybe tied to the horse’s ear with a special harness, seems attractive to you. With your feet in the stirrups, you should feel quite comfortable for reading; having your feet up is the first condition for enjoying a read.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Stretch your legs, go ahead and put your feet on a cushion, or two cushions, on the arms of the sofa, on the wings of the chair, on the coffee table, on the desk, on the piano, on the globe. Take your shoes off first. If you want to, put your feet up; if not, put them back.Now don’t stand there with your shoes in one hand and the book in the other.
“Adjust the light so you won’t strain your eyes. Do it now, because once you’re absorbed in reading there will be no budging you. Make sure the page isn’t in shadow, a clotting of black letters on a gray background, uniform as a pack of mice; but be careful that the light cast on it isn’t too strong, doesn’t glare on the cruel white of the paper gnawing at the shadows of the letters as in a southern noonday. Try to foresee now everything that might make you interrupt your reading. Cigarettes within reach, if you smoke, and the ashtray.
Anything else? Do you have to pee? All right, you know best. . . .”
(Italo Calvino, opening paragraphs of If on a winter’s night a traveler)
epiphora — Repetition of a word or phrase at the end of several clauses. (Also known as epistrophe.)
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as child.” (I Cor. 13.11)
“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right
with America.” (Bill Clinton)
epiplexis — Asking questions to reproach rather than to elicit answers. [Gk. “rebuke”]
“Have you no shame?”
“You think what I do is playing God, but you presume you know what God wants. Do you think that’s not
playing God?” (John Irving, The Cider House Rules)
epithet — Using an appropriate adjective (often habitually) to qualify a subject.
“heartfelt thanks,” “wine-red sea,” “blood-red sky,” “fleet-footed Achilles,” “stone-cold heart”
“The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea.” (James Joyce, Ulysses)
epizeuxis — Repetition of a word for emphasis (usually with no words in between). [Gk. “A fastening together”]
“And my poor fool is hanged! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button.”
(William Shakespeare, King Lear, V.3)
“O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon.”
(Milton, Samson Agonistes, 80)
“Break, break, break
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea:”
erotesis [erotema] — Rhetorical question implying strong affirmation or denial.
“Was I an Irishman on that day that I boldly withstood our pride?
or on the day that I hung down my head and wept in shame and silence over
the humiliation of Great Britain?”
(Edmund Burke, Speech in the Electors of Bristol)
ethopoeia (Pronunciation: “ee tho PO ee ya”) — Putting oneself in place of another so as to both understand and express his or her feelings more vividly.
See Kenneth Burke’s discussion of identification in A Rhetoric of Motives.
“I feel an extraordinary kinship with this aging statesman [Daniel Webster],
this massive victim of pollinosis whose declining days sanctioned the sort
of compromise that is born of local irritation. There is a fraternity of
those who have been tried beyond endurance. I am closer to Daniel Webster,
almost, than to my own flesh.”
(E. B. White, “The Summer Catarrh”)
ethos — Persuasive appeal based on the projected character of the speaker or narrator. Ethical proof is proof that depends upon the good character or projected character of a rhetor. [Gk. “Disposition, character”]
See Aristotle’s discussion of ethos in Rhetoric.
euphemism — Substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit. [Gk. “use of good words”]
“Fertilizer” for “manure”; “manure” for “shit.”
“Ground beef” for “ground flesh of a dead cow”; “veal” for “tender dead
flesh of a baby cow.”
euphuism — Elaborately patterned prose style, characterized by extensive use of simile and illustration, balanced construction, alliteration, and antithesis. Euphuism played an important role in English literary history by demonstrating the capabilities of English prose. [From John Lyly’s ornately florid Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit.]
“This young gallant, of more wit than wealth, and yet of more wealth than
wisdom, seeing himself inferior to none in pleasant conceits, thought
himself superior to all in honest conditions, insomuch that he thought
himself so apt to all things that he gave himself almost to nothing; but
practicing of those things commonly which are incident to these sharp wits:
fine phrases, smooth quips, merry taunts, using jesting without mean and
abusing mirth without measure. As, therefore, the sweetest rose hath his
prickle, the finest velvet his brack, the fairest flour his bran, so the
sharpest wit hath his wanton will, and the holiest head his wicked way. And
true it is that some men write and most men believe that, in all perfect
shapes, a blemish bringeth rather a liking every way to the eyes than a
loathing any way to the mind. Venus had her mole in her cheek, which made
her more amiable; Helen her scar in her chin, which Paris called cos amoris,
the whetstone of love; Aristipppus his wart; Lycurgus his wen. So likewise,
in the disposition of the mind, either virtue is overshadowed with some
vice, or vice overcast with some virtue. Alexander valiant in war, yet given
to wine. Tully eloquent in his glosses, yet vainglorious. Solomon wise, yet
too, too wanton. David holy, but yet an homicide. None more witty than
Euphues, yet at the first none more wicked. The freshest colours soonest
fade, the teenest razor soonest turneth his edge, the finest cloth is
soonest eaten with moths, and the cambric sooner stained than the coarse
canvas: which appeared well in this Euphues, whose wit, being like wax, apt
to receive any impression, and bearing the head in his own hand, either to use
the rein or the spur, disdaining counsel, leaving his country, loathing his old
acquaintance, thought either by wit to obtain some conquest, or by shame to
abide some conflict; who, preferring fancy before friends and his present
humour before honour to come, laid reason in water, being too salt for his
taste, and followed unbridled affection, most pleasant for his tooth. . . .”
(John Lyly, from Euphues, 1579)
exergasia — Elaboration of a single idea in a series of figures of speech. [Gk. “working out”]
“I take thy hand–this hand,
As soft as dove’s down and as white as it,
Or Ethiopian’s tooth, or the fann’d snow that’s bolted
By the northern blasts twice o’er.”
(Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale IV. iv)
“A child said to me WHAT IS THE GRASS?
fetching it to me with full hands;
. . . I guess it must be the flag of my
disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners,
that we may see and remark, and say WHOSE?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means,
Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman,
Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.”
(Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”)
“I don’t want loyalty. I want loyalty. I want him to kiss my ass in Macy’s
window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses. I want his pecker in
my pocket.” (Lyndon Baines Johnson)
exuscitatio — Emotional utterance that seeks to move hearers to a like feeling. [L. “awakening, arousing”]
“He that outlives this day and comes safe home,
Will stand a tiptoe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian,
He that shall live this day and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘Tomorrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Belford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son:
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispian’s day.
(William Shakespeare, Henry V, IV.3)
fable — Fictional story meant to teach a moral lesson.
A FAMISHED FOX saw some clusters of ripe black grapes hanging from a
trellised vine. She resorted to all her tricks to get at them, but wearied
herself in vain, for she could not reach them. At last she turned away,
hiding her disappointment and saying: “The Grapes are sour, and not ripe as
(The Fox and the Grapes, from Aesop’s Fables)
A FOX, seeing some sour grapes hanging within an inch of his nose, and being
unwilling to admit that there was anything he would not eat, solemnly
declared that they were out of his reach.
(“The Fox and the Grapes,” by Ambrose Bierce)
figures of speech — Traditionally defined as the various uses of language that depart from customary construction, order, or significance. Quintilian (anticipating a tenet of poststructuralism) concluded that all language must be figurative, for rhetoric is the shape (form), or figure, of the linguistic expression, and all thoughts must take on some particular form in order to be uttered” (Institutio Oratoria).
“[The] lack of a settled terminology, and in short,
the endless variations in enumerating and defining the figures, are to be
explained historically by contacts between various schools [i.e., Greek,
Roman, Renaissance]” (Curits, European Literature of the Latin Middle
Ages). “The vast pool of terms for verbal ornamentation has acted like a
gene pool for the rhetorical imagination, stimulating us to look at language
in another way. Doesn’t rhetorical terminology work in much this way,
testifying to a kind of verbal attention which looks at the verbal surface
rather than through it? The figures have worked historically to teach a way
of seeing . . .” (Richard Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms).
“We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed;
because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which
is given unto us.” (St. Paul)
“All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.”
(T. S. Eliot)