Quote: “He would clap his hands, lick his lips, narrow his eyes into a squinty gaze and extemporize, patronize, chastise, sermonize and crack wise all at the same time.” Linton Weeks, describing Donald Rumsfeld in the Washington Post.
Figure of Speech: homoioteleuton (ho-mee-o-tel-OO-ton), the rhyming figure.
Okay, so he botched a war. We’ll miss Rummy nonetheless. He was a rhetorician among rote players, a poet among prosaics. He played the chiasmus like a yo-yo (“The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”), and gripped the conduplicatio like a hammer (“We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know”).
His rhetorical flights spurred reporters to match him. Take Linton Weeks, whose postmortem column uses the rhyming homoioteleuton to capture Rumsfeld’s showmanship. Hard as the figure is to pronounce (it rhymes with rootin’ tootin’), it conjures a rhetorical three-ring circus, rendering an image of overwhelming activity. We’re strangely reminded of Arlo Guthrie’s anti-war song “Alice’s Restaurant,” whose draftees are “injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected.”
As Rumsfeld’s enemies had expected, the Democrats got elected. Now, will the course be corrected?
Snappy Answer: “The only thing he couldn’t do well was defense.”