Quote: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Emperor Manuel II.
Figure of Speech: syncrisis (SYN-crih-sis), the show- me- this- and- I’ll- show- you- that figure. From the Greek, “comparison with.”
Pope Benedict XVI quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor in a scholarly lecture at Germany’s University of Regensburg last week. The pope says he wants to improve dialogue; in the same spirit, the mullahs might have a few remarks to make about the Inquisition.
But the quotation itself shows what great figurists those Byzantine types were. The syncrisis places the opponent’s argument next to a contrasting clause of similar length: Show me anything new Muhammad brought, and I’ll show you evil and inhumanity. It’s an efficient way to redefine an issue.
Predictably, some Muslims expressed dismay that the quotation about Islam’s alleged violence might lead to … more violence. (Indeed, it apparently has.) Yesterday, Pope Benedict issued a classic non-apology, saying he was “deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address.” Translation: “I regret that a few morons made a stink about something they took out of context.”
The pope may not have the old emperor’s rhetorical chops, but he sure knows his way around a circumlocution.
Snappy Answer: “Spoken like a true Crusader.”