parable | paradox | paralepsis | parallelism | paranomasia | parataxis | parenthesis | parison | paromoisosis | pathos | periodic sentence | periphrasis | persona | personification | phatic communion | pleonasm | ploce | polyptoton | polysyndeton | prolepsis | proverb | refutation | rhetor | rhetoric | rhetorical criticism | rhetorical distance | rhetorical question | rhetorical situation | rhetorician | running style
parable — Short and simple story that points a moral. Similar to exemplum (a brief story used in medieval sermons to illustrate a moral) and fable.
In the woods of the Far West there once lived a brown bear who could
take it or let it alone. He would go into a bar where they sold mead, a
fermented drink made of honey, and he would have just two drinks. Then he
would put some money on the bar and say, “See what the bears in the back
room will have,” and he would go home. But finally he took to drinking by
himself most of the day. He would reel home at night, kick over the
umbrella stand, knock down the bridge lamps, and ram his elbows through the
windows. Then he would collapse on the floor and lie there until he went to
sleep. His wife was greatly distressed and his children were very
At length the bear saw the error of his ways and began to reform. In
the end he became a famous teetotaler and a persistent temperance lecturer.
He would tell everybody that came to his house about the awful effects of
drink, and he would boast about how strong and well he had become since he
gave up touching the stuff. To demonstrate this, he would stand on his head
and on his hands and he would turn cartwheels in the house, kicking over the
umbrella stand, knocking down the bridge lamps, and ramming his elbows
through the windows. Then he would lie down on the floor, tired by his
healthful exercise, and go to sleep. His wife was greatly distressed and
his children were very frightened.
Moral: You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.
(James Thurber, “The Bear Who Let It Alone,” from Fables for Our Time)
paradox — A statement that appears to contradict itself. [Gk. “incredible”; contrary to opinion or expectation]
“The swiftest traveler is he that goes afoot.” (Henry David Thoreau, Walden)
paralepsis [paralipsis] — Emphasizing a point by seeming to pass over it. [Gk. “disregard”]
“Have patience, gentle friends, I must not read it.
It is not meet you know how Caesar lov’d you.”
(Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, III.ii.136-51)
parallelism — Similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses. When the parallel elements are similar not only in structure but in length [i.e., the same number of words, even the same number of syllables], the scheme is called isocolon.
“It is certain that if you were to behold the whole woman, there is that
dignity in her aspect, that composure in her motion, that complacency in her
manner, that if her form makes you hope, her merit makes you fear.”
(Richard Steele, Spectator, No. 113)
“Voltaire could both lick boots and put the boot in. He was at once
opportunist and courageous, cunning and sincere. He managed, with
disconcerting ease, to reconcile love of freedom with love of hours.”
paranomasia — Punning, playing with words. [Gk. “word-shunting”]
“Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight . . .”
(Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night”)
“Look deep into our ryes.” (Wigler’s Bakery products)
“All moanday, tearsday, wailsday, thumpsday, frightday, shatterday till the fear of the Law.”
(James Joyce, Finnegans Wake)
parataxis — Clauses or phrases arranged independently (a coordinate, rather than a subordinate, construction). Opposite of hypotaxis. [Gk. “placing side by side”]
“Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better–splashed to their
very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas, in a
general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foothold at street corners
. . ..” (Charles Dickens, Bleak House)
parenthesis — Insertion of some verbal unit in a position that interrupts the normal syntactic flow of the sentence.
“The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess
success. That–with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word
success–is our national disease.”
(William James, Letter to H. G. Wells)
“Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(Which was rather late for me)–
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.”
(Philip Larkin, “Annus Mirabilis”)
parison — Corresponding structure in a series of clauses, either of same word to same word, or adjective to adjective, noun to noun, etc. (often found with isocolon), or equal length of clause or sentence.
“I have lov’d, and got, and told,
But should I love, get, tell, till I were old,
I should not find that hidden mystery.”
(Donne, “Mummy or Love’s Alchemy”)
“He that is to be saved will be saved, and he that is predestined to be
damned will be damned.”
(Cooper, Last of the Mohicans)
paromoisosis — Parallelism of sound between the words of two clauses approximately equal in size. [Gk. “assimilation, assonance“].
“Do not let us speak of darker days; let us speak rather of sterner days.
These are not dark days; these are great days.”
(Churchill, “To the Boys of Harrow School”)
periodic sentence — Long and frequently involved sentence in which the sense is not completed until the final word–usually with an emphatic climax. Marked by suspended syntax. (Opposite of running style)
“Hereupon, not thinking it strange, if whatsoever is human should befal me, knowing how Providence overcomes grief, and discountenances crosses; and that, as we should not despair in evils which may happen to us, we should not be too confident, nor lean much to those goods we enjoy; I began to turn over in my remembrance all that could afflict miserable mortality, and to forecast everything which could beget gloomy and sad apprehensions, and with a mask of horror show itself to human eyes; till in the end, as by unities and points mathematicians are brought to great numbers and huge greatness, after many fantastical glances of the woes of mankind, and those incumbrances which follow upon life, I was brought to think, and with amazement, on the last of human terrors, or (as one termed it) the last of all dreadful and terrible evils, Death.” (William Drummond)
“Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed.” (Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales)
periphrasis — Roundabout way of speaking or writing; circumlocution.
“The answer to your question, sir, is in the plural, and they bounce.”
personification — Investing abstractions or inanimate objects with human qualities or abilities. Also known as prosopopoeia.
“Because I could not stop for Death–
He kindly stopped for me–
The Carriage held but just Ourselves–
(Emily Dickinson, “Because I could not stop for death”)
“And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes.”
(T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)
phatic communion — Nonreferential use of language for the purpose of contact; ritualized formulas that prolong communication, attract the attention of the listener, or sustain his or her attention.
“How ya doin’?” “Have a nice day!” “What’s your sign?”
pleonasm — Use of words to emphasize what is clear without them. [Gk. “abounding”]
“The most unkindest cut of all.” (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar)
“Let us gather together.”
ploce — Repetition of a word with a new or specified sense, or with pregnant reference to its special significance. (Also know as antanaclasis.) [Gk. “weaving, plaiting”]
“But thou art all my art, and dost advance
As high as learning my rude ignorance.”
(Shakespeare, Sonnet 78)
“We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
“When you look good, we look good.” (Vidal Sassoon ad)
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
“When we come to work, we come to work.”
polyptoton — Repetition of words derived from the same root but with different endings.
“. . . love is not love
Which alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove . . .”
(Shakespeare, Sonnet 116)
“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” (Robert Frost)
“A good ad should be like a good sermon: it must not only comfort the
afflicted; it also must afflict the comfortable.” (Bernice Fitzgibbon)
polysyndeton — Style that employs a great many conjunctions (opposite of asyndeton).
“We lived and laughed and loved and left.” (James Joyce, Finnegans Wake)
“He kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as
another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked
me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around
him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes
and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.” (Molly
Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses)
“And she pushed St. Peter aside and took a keek in, and there was God-with a
plague in one hand and a war and a thunderbolt in the other and the Christ
in glory with the angels bowing, and a scraping and banging of harps and
drums, ministers thick as a swarm of blue-bottles, no sight of Jim [her
husband] and no sight of Jesus, only the Christ, and she wasn’t impressed.
And she said to St. Peter This is no place for me and turned and went
striding into the mists and across the fire-tipped clouds to her home.”
(Ma Cleghorn in Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Grey Granite)
prolepsis — (1) Foreseeing and forestalling objections in various ways, (2) Figurative device by which a future event is presumed to have already occurred. [Gk. “preconception, anticipation”]
proverb — Short, pithy statement of a general truth, one that condenses common experience into memorable form. Also known as adage, maxim, sententia.
“Here’s the rule for bargains: ‘Do other men, for they would do you.’
That’s the true business precept.”
(Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit)
“An influence ceases when the person receiving it becomes aware of it.” (Alain Resnais)
“Time wounds all heels.” (Jane Ace)
“Try everything once except incest and folk-dancing.” (Sir Thomas Beecham)
“When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.” (Sir Winston Churchill)
“One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you
only if they already agree with you. You do not change people’s minds.”
refutation — The part of a discourse wherein a rhetor anticipates opposing arguments and answers them.
rhetor — Anyone who composes discourse that is intended to affect community thinking of events.
(1) The study and practice of effective communication.
(2) The art of persuasion.
(3) An insincere eloquence intended to win points and manipulate others.
“Rhetoric may be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the
available means of persuasion.” (Aristotle, Rhetoric)
“The duty and office of rhetoric is to apply reason to imagination for the
better moving of the will.” (Francis Bacon)
“Though he may be an acute logician who is no orator, he will never be a
consummate orator who is no logician.” (Campbell)
“Acting on another through words.” (James Moffet)
[Gk. “I say”]
The three branches of rhetoric:
- deliberative (legislative, to exhort or dissuade)
- judicial (forensic, to accuse or defend)
- epideictic (ceremonial, to commemorate or blame)
The five cannons or offices of rhetoric:
- inventio (or Gk. heuristics, invention)
- dispositio (or Gk. taxis, arrangement)
- elocutio (or Gk. lexis, style)
- actio (or Gk. hypocrisis, delivery)
- memoria (or Gk. mneme, memory)
rhetorical criticism — A collection of critical approaches or points of view united by a single general assumption that a communicator’s intentional use of language or other symbols, a receiver’s response, and the situation or context in which communication takes place all interact to change human thought, feelings, behavior, and action. The triadic relation of speaker/writer, discourse/text, and environment (including the audience/reader) generates the diverse approaches available to rhetorical critics: some focus primarily on the discourse or text and its role in persuading an audience; some on the role of the communicator; some on the communication context; others on the audience itself. Various ratios or combinations of focus produce a complex set of critical goals and methodologies.
rhetorical situation — The context of a rhetorical act; minimally, made up of a rhetor, an issue, and an audience.
rhetorician — Someone who studies or practices or teaches the art of rhetoric.
running style — Opposite of periodic, sentence style that appears to follow the mind as it worries a problem through. Mimics the “rambling, associative syntax of conversation” (Richard Lanham, Analyzing Prose).
“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it.” (Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep)