TERMS OF RHETORIC
Long ago, schoolmasters concerned with teaching youngsters to become orators--in practical terms, lawyers and politicians--identified and categorized some of the special effects of speech. Roughly speaking, one big category covers the patterning of words--for example, anaphora. The other big category covers "turns" in the logic of the words, or tropes --for example, hyperbole, metonymy. These days, students most often learn the terms of rhetoric to aid in reading, for we read silently far more than we listen, and to analyze speeches, like Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream," we more often read than listen. For figuring out how a writer or speaker is making you feel or influencing your thinking, it is helpful if you have a way to analyze language. Knowing how to work with rhetorical terms is a big help. The best approach combines terms, definitions, and examples. I have a few terms below, not including kinds of analogy such as metaphor and simile. For many more terms, you may go to the following site, includes a handbook of rhetorical devices and a glossary of literary terms: http://www.uky.edu/ArtsSciences/Classics/Harris/rhetform.html
Anacoluthon: The failure, accidental or deliberate, to complete a sentence according to the structural plan on which it was started. Used accidentally, it is a vice. Used deliberately, it is effective. "If you fail to do your duty--but we will not speak that." Anaphora: Repetition of a word or words at the beginning of successive clauses. Some glory in their birth, some in their skill, Some in their wealth, some in their body's force, Some in their garments, though newfangled ill, Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse. (Shakespeare) Aposiopesis: An abrupt breaking off in the middle of a sentence for effect. "And if it bear fruit--" Asyndeton: Omission of conjunctions which ordinarily join co-ordinate words or clauses. "Veni, vidi, vici": "I came, I saw, I conquered." Chiasmus: Crisscross order. A balanced passage where the second part reverses the order of the first. "Featured like him, like him with friends possessed." (Shakespeare) "Slow to resolve, but in performance quick," (Dryden) Epistrophe: Repetition of the last word of lines or clauses. Octavia: Who made him a cheap at Rome, but Cleopatra? Who made him scorned abroad, but Cleopatra? At Actium, who betrayed him? Cleopatra. Who made his children orphans, and poor me A wretched widow? Only Cleopatra. Cleopatra: Yet she who loves him best is Cleopatra. (Dryden) Hendiadys: The use of a pair of nouns joined by "and" where one has the use of an adjective. King: What wouldst thou have, Laertes? Laertes: Your leave and favor (i.e., gracious permission) to return to France. "Waving to him white hands and courtesy" (i.e., courteous white hands). (Tennyson) Hyperbole: The use of exaggerated terms for the sake not of deception, but of emphasis. "The Norwegian banners flout the sky And fan our people cold." (Shakespeare) "Rivers of blood." Hysteron Proteron: An arrangement reversing the natural or rational order. "He is well and lives." "Put on your shoes and stockings." Irony: A figure in which the actual intent is expressed in words that carry the opposite meaning. Overstatement, understatement, and reverse statement are used to imply that the opposite of what is said is meant. Anthony's insistence, in his oration over the dead Caesar, that "Brutus is an honorable man." "Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse!" (Swift) Litotes: A figure of speech which makes an affirmation by stating the fact in the negative or by saying the opposite of what one means. (Does not however mean an understatement.) Especially common in Old English poetry, like Beowulf. "Not bad, eh?" (meaning that is excellent). "Not a few" (meaning a great number). "He was no cowardly man." "She's no spring chicken." Metonymy: Use of one word for another that it suggests (closely related to synecdoche). A man "keeps a good table." "The crown" for the king. "In the sweat of thy face (i.e., hard labor) shalt thou eat thy bread." "The kettle boils." "He drank the cup." Oxymoron: A seeming contradiction for effect, e.g., the use of a noun with a qualifying adjective which seems to imply a contrary meaning. A paradox expressed in a minimum number of words. "Cheerful pessimist," "Harmonious discord," "strenuous idleness," "wise folly," "darkness visible." Romeo: O brawling love! O loving hate!.... O heavy lightness! serious vanity! Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms! Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health! Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is! This love feel I, that feel no love in this. (Shakespeare) Paradox: A seeming contradiction which is intended to reveal an unrecognized element of truth. A statement, an assertion, an idea, which is seemingly self-contradictory. The paradoxical element may appear to be in contradiction to common sense or that which is generally accepted, and at the same time be true in fact as interpreted for us by the poet. "One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die!" (John Donne) Stichomythia: Dramatic dialogue of lively repartees in alternate verse lines. King: Wrong not her birth, she is a royal princess. Queen: To save her life, I'll say she is not so. King: Her life is safest only in her birth. Queen: And only in that safety died her brothers. (Shakespeare, Richard III) Synecdoche: A form of metaphor which in mentioning the part signifies the whole. A good synecdoche must be based on an important part of the whole and not a minor part. Motor, for automobile. Foot soldiers, for infantry. Hands, for manual laborers. Fifty sail, for fifty ships. A hundred bayonets, for a hundred soldiers. Zeugma: A figure in which one word is used to modify several others with only one of which it makes sense. "The fragrance of flowers and the blue sky." You should, of course, also know the tropes based on analogy, notably the simile, the epic simile, and metaphor.