Quote: “The blatant fraud, the audacity of the schemes, the scale of the waste — it is just breathtaking.” Senator Susan Collins.
Figure of Speech: anacoluthon (an-a-co-LU-thon), the sidetrack figure.
Americans paid a fraud tax of $2 billion — 6% of federal funds allocated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The New York Times notes that the normal rate of fraud for this sort of thing is 1 to 2%. So Senator Collins, a Republican from Maine, uses an anacoluthon (“out of order”) to express her shock.
Despite its unpronounceable name (damn those Greeks for naming everything in, well, Greek), the anacoluthon is one of the more common figures. It interrupts the usual grammatical or syntactical flow in order to zero in on a topic. Newscasters use the figure all the time — “Alligators in the sewers: fact or urban myth?”
Fraud, audacity and scale — let them sink in before you make your point. A linguistic pause that refreshes.
Snappy Answer: “In Congress, that would be called ‘reform.’”