About This Site

Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
(What are figures of speech?)
Ask Figaro a question!

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    « Plus, We'll Pay for Your Flights | Main | Stuff Happens to a Few Dead-Enders »

    Down, Pluto. Play Dead.


    Quote:  “Is a human dwarf not a human?” Owen Gingerich, Harvard astronomer and historian, in the Washington Post.

    Figure of Speech:  diasyrmus (di-a-SYR-mus), the ludicrous comparison.  From the Greek, meaning “a ripping apart.”

    The world’s astronomers have kicked Pluto out of the planetary pantheon.  To qualify as a planet, a body has to be big enough to clear its orbit of smaller objects.  Eight big balls in our Solar System can.  Pluto can’t.

    The astronomers give Pluto’s demotion a positive spin:   It will be first in a new class of space stuff called “dwarf planets.”  So the former planet, named after the god of the underworld, gets a space underworld of its very own.

    The problem is, by the astronomers’ own definition, a dwarf planet is not a planet.  Professor Gingerich fingers the absurdity with a diasyrmus, a figure that rips through an opponent’s argument with an absurd comparison. 

    Clearly, we need to give these parallel objects a name with more, well, gravitas.  And Figaro has one!  Call this new parallel class of space objects plutarchs, after the Greek philosopher who wrote Parallel Lives

    Don’t thank us.  Just name your next new star Figaro.

    Snappy Answer:  “At least as human as an astronomer.”

    Nota Bene:  Figaro will be in a different orbit of his own for the next week. He’s walking his son to school, a distance of 110 miles.  Meanwhile, you might want to see a few excerpts from his new book.  Thanks for reading.

    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments

    There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

    PostPost a New Comment

    Enter your information below to add a new comment.

    My response is on my own website »
    Author Email (optional):
    Author URL (optional):
    All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.