Quote: “I don’t want to put too much in his mouth now, but there was not one bit of argument.” Lawrence Eagleburger, secretary of state under the first President Bush, quoted in the New York Times.
Figure of Speech: apophasis (a-PA-pha-sis), the deny- you’re- saying- it figure. From the Greek, meaning “denial.”
The Iraq Study Group presented its findings to President Bush in what amounts to one big helping of crow. The question is whether Bush will eat it. Grizzled diplomat Larry Eagleburger expresses hope in the form of an apophasis, an ironic figure of thought in which the speaker stresses a point through the very act of denying he’s making it. I don’t want to speak for the president, Eagleburger says, speaking for the president.
Okay, so Eagleburger doesn’t actually put words in Bush’s mouth. But when you hear a politico begin a statement with an apophasis, put your rhetoric sensors on full alert. While affecting a disinterested attitude, the former secretary of state is actually pressing the president.
Not to speak of Figaro’s childhood, but whenever his mother asked if his father had given permission for something, Figaro would reply, “He didn’t say no.”
Snappy Answer: “A genial reception does not imply agreement.”