e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “understatement”

Litotes – a new-to-me word

I’m quite a fan of understatements and decided to look some up on the web. While browsing around I came across another word: litotes, which is a special kind of understatement.

The Free Dictionary gives several definitions and examples including the following:

A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite, as in ‘This is no small problem‘.

I always enjoy new words and this one sounds very learned. Also some of the sources the Free Dictionary quotes consider it to be a plural. I’m not sure it gets used as a plural – if an author includes only one in his work can a reader talk about ‘these litotes are …’ or ‘this litotes is …’. I think I would go for the latter.

I doubt if I will actually ever be able to work it into my conversation. If I did would I sound learned or pretentious?

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