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Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
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    A Rhetorical Wizard

    peterboyle1a.jpgQuote:  “You know like uh, you do a thing and that’s what you are.” Peter Boyle in the movie “The Taxi Driver.”

    Figure of Speech:  prosopopoeia (pro-so-po-PEE-a), the figure of personification.

    The actor Peter Boyle, who played the father in Everybody Loves Raymond and young Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, died at 71 yesterday.  His best role, in Figaro’s estimate, was as Wizard in The Taxi Driver.

    Wizard is a low-class Polonius who dispenses clueless but strangely wise advice.  Note the quote’s nice rhythm.  Instead of the cliché, “You are what you do,” Wizard employs an isocolon, a figure that balances similar clauses:  “You do a thing and that’s what you are.”

    Rhetoricians through the ages have noted that rhetorical devices often work best in clumsy mouths; the seemingly inarticulate make the smoothest rhetors.  (Take the strangely effective Bushisms, for example.)  In other words, persuasion should sneak up on the audience.  And no one snuck better than the underrated Peter Boyle.  We’ll miss him.

    Snappy Answer:  “I eat a thing and that’s what I am. Call me Trans Fat.”

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    Reader Comments (1)

    first, love your page - just great.

    second, you refer to the Boyle Quote as "isocolon". I always thought an Isocolon has to be strictly the same on both sides of the colon, e.g. "you do a thing, you are that thing". Here this isn't the case, isn't it?


    Dear Stef,

    Rhetoricians have played with the definition of isocolon. Here's Figaro's: a form of parallelism in which the clauses have similar size and rhythm.

    December 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterstef

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