• Essential Rhetorical Terms

    A "quizlet" on these terms is here.

    Alliteration: repetition of the same sound beginning several words in sequence.

    ·         “Let us go forth to lead the land we love.” J. F. Kennedy, Inaugural

    Analogy: a comparison between two quite different things. Metaphors and similes set up analogies, as can prose.

    ·         “They crowded very close about him, with their hands always on him in a careful, caressing grip, as though all the while feeling him to make sure he was there. It was like men handling a fish which is still alive and may jump back into the water.” George Orwell

    Anecdote: a short and interesting or amusing story about a real incident or person.

    Antithesis: opposition, or contrast of ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction.

    ·         “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Barry Goldwater

    ·         Brutus: “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

    Chiasmus: two corresponding pairs arranged not in parallel but in inverted order; from shape of the Greek letter chi (X).

    ·         It is not the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.

    ·          I have taken more from alcohol than alcohol has taken from me. –all from Winston Churchill

    Ethos: using credibility to convince, through the character/experience of the author or sources.

    ·         He is a forensics and ballistics expert for the federal government – if anyone’s qualified to determine the murder weapon, it’s him.

    Epigram: a saying or remark expressing an idea in a clever and amusing way. Synonymous with “quip” or “witticism.”

    ·         "I can resist everything but temptation." - Oscar Wilde

    ·         "No one is completely unhappy at the failure of his best friend." - Groucho Marx

    Euphemism: substitution of an agreeable or at least non-offensive expression for one whose plainer meaning might be harsh, sexual or unpleasant.

    ·         Dan Foreman: Guys, I feel very terrible about what I'm about to say. But I'm afraid you're both being let go.
    Lou: Let go? What does that mean?
    Dan Foreman: It means you're being fired, Louie.         (In Good Company, 2004)

    Hyperbole: exaggeration for emphasis or for rhetorical effect.

    ·         “My vegetable love should grow/Vaster than empires, and more slow;
    An hundred years should got to praise/Thine eyes and on thine forehead gaze;
    Two hundred to adore each breast,/But thirty thousand to the rest.”

    —Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"

    Irony: There are 3 kinds of irony: verbal, situational and dramatic. Each involves a contrast, humorous or poignant, between what is on the surface and what is to be understood. Verbal irony is when one’s words contrast with one’s meaning, or seem humorously self-contradictory. It includes sarcasm.

    ·         “I bet your wife loves the new STD you brought home.”

    ·         "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room." Dr. Strangelove

    Situational irony is when what is expected is the opposite of what happens.

    ·         A meter maid returns to her car and there’s a parking ticket on it.

    ·         A fire station burns down.

    ·         From O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”: A wife sells her hair to buy her husband a watch; he has sold his watch to buy her a comb.

    Dramatic irony is when, in storytelling, the audience understands something important that a character does not.

    ·         In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo believes Juliet is dead but we know she’s only drugged, adding pathos to him killing himself.

    ·         A character walks into a house in which the audience knows a serial killer is waiting.

    Logos: logic used to support a claim (induction and deduction). Refers to the internal consistency of the message—the clarity of the claim, the logic of its reasons, and the effectiveness of its supporting evidence, as well as the facts and statistics used to support the argument.

    ·         "You don’t need to jump off a bridge to know that it’s a bad idea. Why then would you need to try drugs to know if they’re damaging? That’s plain nonsense."

    Metaphor: implied comparison achieved through a figurative use of words; the word is used not in its literal sense, but in one analogous to it.

    ·         “Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage.” Shakespeare, Macbeth

    ·         . . . while he learned the language (that meager and fragile thread . . . by which the little surface corners and edges of men's secret and solitary lives may be joined for an instant now and then before sinking back into the darkness. . . ) Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

    Metonymy: substitution of one word for another which it suggests.

    ·         He is a man of the cloth.

    ·         The pen is mightier than the sword.

    ·         By the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat thy bread.

    Onomatopoeia: use of words to imitate natural sounds; accommodation of sound to sense.

    ·         The tuba blared waaaaaahwahwah.

    Oxymoron: apparent paradox achieved by the juxtaposition of words which seem to contradict one another.

    ·         “I must be cruel only to be kind.” Shakespeare, Hamlet

    ·         jumbo shrimp

    Paradox: an assertion that seems self-contradictory or opposed to common sense, but that may yet have some truth in it.

    ·         “What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.” George Bernard Shaw

    ·         “The only way to peace is through war.”

    Pathos: emotional or motivational appeals; vivid language, emotional language, sensory details.

    ·         "Where would we be without this tradition? Ever since our forefathers landed at Plymouth Rock, we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving without fail, making more than cherished recipes. We’ve made memories."

    Personification: attribution of personality to an impersonal thing.

    ·         “England expects every man to do his duty.” Lord Nelson

    Platitude: a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.

    ·         “It was meant to be.”

    ·         “There are plenty of fish in the sea”

    Simile: an explicit comparison between two things using 'like' or 'as'.

    ·         My love is as a fever, longing still
    For that which longer nurseth the disease, Shakespeare, Sonnet CXLVII

    Understatement: A figure of speech making something seem (or seem to seem) less important than it is. Can be self-deprecation, humorous or unintentional.

    ·         "I am just going outside and may be some time." Captain Lawrence Oates, Antarctic explorer, before walking out into a blizzard that would kill him, 1912)


Last Modified on January 7, 2016