scheme to zeugma

scheme | Senecan | sign | simile | simple sentence | situated ethos | sophist | spoonerism | sprezzatura | style | syllepsis | syllogistic progression | synathroesmus | synchronic stylistics | synecdoche | tapinosis | tenor | tetracolon climax | testimony | topics | tricolon | trope | understatement | vehicle | voice | zeugma


scheme — In classical rhetoric, a departure from the expected pattern of words.  A generic term for the artful use of language.  Example, polysyndeton. (See trope.)


Senecan — Generally, a plain, direct, anti-Ciceronian prose style (associated with the Roman moralist Seneca) that developed in English in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. (See Attic.)


sign — Facts or events that usually or always accompany other facts or events.


simile — A stated comparison between two fundamentally dissimilar things that have certain qualities in common.

“He was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.” (George Eliot, Adam Bede)

“The harpsichord sounds like two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof.” (Sir Thomas Beecham)

“Humanity, let us say, is like people packed in an automobile which is traveling downhill without lights at terrific speed and driven by a four-year-old child.  The signposts along the way are all marked ‘Progress.'” (Lord Dunsany)


simple sentence — A sentence with one independent clause and no other clauses.


situated ethos — Proof from character that depends on a rhetor’s reputation in the relevant community.  Contrast with invented ethos.


sophist — In ancient times, name given to any rhetor who taught by example; when capitalized, refers to any of a group of rhetoric teachers who worked in and around Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries BC; in modern English, a (generally disparaging) term for a rhetor who may use fallacious or tricky arguments.


spoonerism — Transposition of initial or other sounds of words, as in a blushing crow for a crushing blow.  Related to a chronic speech infirmity known as metathesis. [after W. A. Spooner, English clergyman noted for such slips]

“It is kisstomary to cuss the bride.”  (Reverend Spooner)

“You hissed my mystery lecture and can leave Oxford by the town drain.” (Reverend Spooner)


sprezzatura — The rehearsed spontaneity, the well-practiced naturalness, that lies at the center of convincing discourse of any sort (coined by Castiglione in The Courtier).  Put another way, sprezzatura is the art of doing something so gracefully that it looks easy.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as “Ease of manner, studied carelessness, nonchalance, esp. in art or literature.”  Perhaps the best definition was given by Richard Seaver in his description of Jean-Paul Belmondo’s performance in Alain Resnais’ film, Stavisky: “Power in repose.”

Sprezzatura was coined in 1528 by Baldesar Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier (Chapter I §26 ¶2): “. . . I have found quite a universal rule which in this matter seems to me valid above all others, and in all human affairs whether in word or deed: and that is to avoid affectation  in every way possible as though it were some very rough and dangerous reef; and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all things a certain Sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.”

“Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee.” (Muhammed Ali)

“Never let ’em see you sweat.”


style — Narrowly interpreted as those figures that ornament discourse; broadly, as representing a manifestation of the person speaking.   “From the point of view of style, it is impossible to change the diction to say exactly the same thing; for what the reader receives from a statement is not only what is said, but also certain connotations that affect the consciousness” (Harmon and Holman, 500).


syllepsis — A kind of ellipsis in which one word (usually a verb) is understood differently in relation to two or more other words, which it modifies or governs.

“He lost the bet and his temper.”

“Bryant Gumbel’s well-publicized memo ticked off the Today show’s troubles-and other personalities on the top-rated show.”


syllogistic progression — “Type of form in which, given certain things, certain other things must follow, the premises forcing the conclusion.” (Kenneth Burke, Counter-Statement).  A syllogism is the name for deductive argument in logic.

Premise 1:  If A Then B

Premise 2:  Affirm A

Conclude B

The premises in an argument of this form will always lead to the conclusion.

This will be the case even when the premises are not true:

P1 If a person has blue eyes, then she has a green nose..

P2 I have blue eyes.

C I have a green nose.

For any argument of this form, if the premises are true then the conclusion must be true.   When an argument is in this syllogistic form the premises will always lead to the conclusion, but the truthfulness of the premises will still be undetermined from an analysis of the argument form.  Arguments can also be shown to be bad if they don’t properly use the form (by affirming B instead of A, for instance).


synathroesmus — The piling up of adjectives, often in the spirit of invective. (pronounced “si na TREES mus” … Gk. “collection”)

“He’s a proud, haughty, consequential, turned-up-nose peacock.” (Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby)

“He was a gasping, wheezing, clutching, covetous old man.” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)


synchronic stylistics — Study of a style of a period; the sum of linguistic habits shared by most writers of a particular period.  Example: 18th century writers favored balanced, compounded constructions.


synecdoche — Substitution of a more inclusive for a less inclusive term to describe something–or the other way around. A form of metonymy. (pronounced “si NEK doh kee” … Gk. “receiving jointly”)

“England won the soccer match.”

“All hands on deck.”

“Take thy face hence.” (Shakespeare, Macbeth V.iii)


tapinosis — Undignified language that debases a person or thing. (See meiosis. … Gk. “reduction, humiliation”)

“rhymester” for “poet”


tenor — The underlying idea or principal subject which is the meaning of a metaphor or figure. (I. A. Richards, The Philosophy of Rhetoric)


tetracolon climax — Series of four members.

“I do not believe in recovery. The past, with its pleasures, its rewards, its foolishness, its punishments, is there for each of us forever, and it should be.” (Lillian Hellman, Scoundrel Time)


testimony — A person’s account of an event or state of affairs.


topics — Both the stuff of which arguments are made and the form of those arguments. (See Aristotle’s Rhetoric.)  Greek term for a commonplace–literally, the place where arguments are located.


tricolon — Series of three members.

“A happy life is one spent in learning, earning, and yearning.” (Lillian Gish)

“Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”
(Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Dirge Without Music”)

“Ours is the age of substitutes: instead of language, we have jargon;
instead of principles, slogans; instead of genuine ideas, bright ideas.”
(Eric Bentley, “The Dramatic Event”)


trope — Rhetorical device that produces a shift in the meaning of words– traditionally contrasted with a scheme, which changes only the shape of a phrase.  Sixteenth-century rhetorician Peter Ramus identified four major tropes: metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony.  Post-Saussurean theorists have challenged such distinctions between the tropological and “literal” aspects of language, arguing that the rhetorical and metaphorical dimension of language is integral to all discourse, not just poetic and literary language. [Gk. “a turn”]


understatementFigure in which a rhetor deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is.

“The grave’s a fine and private place,

But none, I think, do there embrace.” (Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”)


vehicle — In a metaphor, the figure itself. A metaphor carries two ideas: the vehicle and the tenor, or underlying idea.


voice — Often used synonymously with persona and ethos in a text.  Also, the persuasive use loudness and tone of voice.


zeugma — Use of a word to modify or govern two or more words although its use is grammatically or logically correct with only one. (Corbett offers this distinction between zeugma and syllepsis: in zeugma, unlike syllepsis, the single word does not fit grammatically or idiomatically with one member of the pair. Thus, in Corbett’s view, the first example below would be syllepsis, the second zeugma.) [Gk. “a yoking”]

“Here thou, great ANNA! whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take–and sometimes tea.”
(Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock)

“Jane has murdered her father, and may you too.”



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