Quote: “It was a border that came over us. We didn’t come over the border.” Ken Salazar, U.S. senator from Colorado, in the New York Times.
Figure of Speech: chiasmus (key-AS-mus), the mirror figure.
Figaro gets all excited when a politician uses his favorite figure, the chiasmus (the letter “X” in Greek). The chiasmus busts a judo move on an opponent’s argument by turning it upside down. When President Kennedy used it (“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”), thousands of chiasmus-besotted youth signed up for the Peace Corps. And you thought rhetoric was empty.
Senator Salazar’s ancestors founded Santa Fe, New Mexico, more than half a century before those pasty-faced Pilgrims snuck over from England. He uses a chiasmus to enforce the point that most of us red-blooded Americans are Johnnies — not Juans — Come Lately.
Snappy Answer: “Some Indian tribes recall a time when there was no border.”