The words of rhetoric
I recently bought a book about rhetoric – The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth. Subtitled How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase it gives information and examples of numerous rhetorical devices that will hopefully expand and improve the reader’s writing.
As a writer I found it fascinating and useful, but what I really loved was all those fancy names for the different devices. Words like polyptoton, aposiopesis, litotes, or epistrophe – how have I missed out on them until now? Did you know that the four names in the last sentence is a congeries (yes, that is singular and the plural is the same – like sheep)? So much grander than ‘list’. (And that verbless sentence is a scesis onomaton.)
Anyone can use rhetoric. When the main man in Dr No introduces himself as: ‘Bond. James Bond.’ he’s using a diacope (or verbal sandwich in English), as well as a scesis onomaton.
While the Greek and Latin words may take some learning, the English explanations are very readable and interesting. They open up a whole array of new understanding about what writers from Shakespeare to John Lennon have been up to.
Cover art from Goodreads.