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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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    SUVs Fall Off Cliff, Reporter's Prose Follows.

    suv_cliff.gifQuote:  “Though SUV sales have been SLIPPING for the past year or so, lately it looks like the road has DROPPED OUT from under them. Sales of Chevrolet’s Suburban SLID 24% in the year’s first half, Toyota’s Sequoia FELL 30%, Jeep’s Grand Cherokee DROPPED 32%, the Ford Expedition DECLINED 33% and the Durango PLUNGED 37%.  Not only is the downturn sharper than expected, but it has hit smaller SUVs as well:  Ford’s once-best-selling Explorer FELL 29%, while Jeep’s compact Liberty WAS OFF 16%.” Wall Street Journal (capital letters added).

    Figure of Speechsynonymia, synonyms gone wild.

    Pity the poor business reporter who has to turn numbers into a trend story.  The writer has to apply all his lexigraphical skill to say “go up” or “go down” as many ways as possible, thus employing a figure called synonymia (“like words”).

    The ancients saw the synonymia as a form of copia, or rhetorical abundance.  But Figaro, who’s more easily bored, considers it a vice.  Sports announcers drive him crazy when they combine synonymia with anthropomorphism:  “The Harriers buzzed the Minute Men 7-0, the Banana Slugs slimed the Boll Weevils 87-85, and the Stoners smoked the Born-Agains 100-20.”  Just give us the scores, Dude.

    Figurist Brian Edwards, who sent us the quote, notes that the Wall Street Journal calibrates its verbs to match the numbers.  A plunge is worse than a drop, which is worse than a fall, which is worse than a slide.  So there truly is poetry in math — a dangerous mix of rhyme and reason.

    Snappy Answer:  “The writer’s verbs went into a free fall, hitting terminal velocity in his last, vertiginous clause.”

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