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.

    « He Just Cornered the Cat Vote | Main | You Got a Pretty Mouth, Cousin Barack »

    He’s Really a Robot Controlled by Donny Osmond

    romney_robot.jpgQuote:  “His teeth are on message, and no hair grows without a plan and a briefing.”  John Dickerson in Slate.

    Figure of Speech:  anthropomorphism (an-thro-po-MOR-phism), the personification figure. From the Greek, meaning “turning human.”

    Figaro’s Rhetorical Rule No. 1:  Don’t let your rhetoric show. If Mitt Romney wins in 2008, he’ll be the most presidential-looking president since Warren Harding.  But looking the part isn’t always rhetorically correct; a strong chin and perfect grooming can make a candidate look too slick, especially if he lacks Reaganesque ideological passion.

    John Dickerson, Slate’s political pundit, showcases Romney’s slickness with a spot-on anthropomorphism, a figure that lends human characteristics to inhuman objects or beings. (Figaro hates calling a ship a “she,” for instance. Click here to offer your most annoying anthropomorphisms.) Dickerson deftly uses political jargon (“on message”) to politicize Mitt’s whitened and coiffed charms, and he throws in a double negative (“no hair grows without…”) to imply zero tolerance for the non-camera-ready.

    So what should Romney do: stand in front of a wind machine in his next ad? Not necessarily. The self-conscious flaw can look slick, too. This is why sensible people don’t run for the presidency. As Mitt himself might say, you’re darned if you do and darned if you don’t.

    Snappy Answer:  “But were those eyebrows properly focus-grouped?”

    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments (20)

    As someone who cuts his own firewood, I get soft-hearted tree lovers asking me how I could be so cruel as to cut down the poor things. "I hear they cry and moan when they fall," one misguided environmentalist said to me.

    Anthropomorphism screws up conservation by making us treat species inappropriately, favor the cute over the ugly, and the individual creature over the ecosystem.
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSam
    People who name their cars ought to be forced to change their own names to "Kia" and "Chevrolet."
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLinda
    Warren Harding owns the record for Worst Alliteration by a Candidate. This is from a speech he gave before he was nominated:

    "America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality...."

    That may not be directly relevant to your request for annoying anthropomorphisms; but I think it would be a mistake to confuse Harding with a human being.

    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSamir
    As a kindergartner I was forced into a solo performance of "I'm a Little Teapot" at the school talent show. I still have nightmares about that.

    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKim
    Thanks for pouring out your troubles to us, Kim.


    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Dogs with sweaters.
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPaula
    Personally, I think it's a mistake to anthropomorphize children.
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStephen
    Houses: Dunroamin. Dunrentin. Dunanthropomorphizing.
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJack
    Is Donnie Osmond human? But maybe that was your point.
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSadie
    What's with the anti-Mormonizing? Would you call Senator Lieberman a robot with Jackie Mason inside him?
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRon
    No. Senator Lieberman has nothing inside him.

    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Robots. I hate it when we mistake them for presidential candidates.
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLawrence
    Loved the art! How'd you do it?
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFemur
    Actually, I'm not really happy with how it turned out. I grabbed pictures of Romney and Osmond, then took the spaceship window from Wallace & Gromit's "A Grand Day Out." I only partially erased the window in front of Donny's face. And I moved Romney's arm so it appears to be drawing his lapel aside.

    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Figaro, what did Ron use when he accused you of "Mormonizing"? He verbed a noun, but what is that called?
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLinda
    "Mormonizing" is an ANTHIMERIA, Linda. Search for the figure in this site for more examples.

    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    I was going to gripe about the car naming, but someone beat me to it. It's embarrassing to everyone involved, so why does it persist?
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
    Maybe because cars want us to.

    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Could Dickerson's use of "teeth" and "hair" be considered metonymy?
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo
    Indeed they could, Paolo. Metonymy can be funny, because the scale-change--from simple to complex or the reverse--is startling. It can seem almost cinematic, as the mental camera switches from panning shot to closeup and back again.
    October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro

    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.