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 He Stopped Beating His Wife | Main | Much-Tell Hotel »

    Beware the Dirimens Room

    outhouse_biohazard.jpgQuote:  “The danger is not just bio-terror but bio-error.” Washington Post.

    Figure of Speech:  dirimens copulatio (deera-mens cop-u-LAT-io), the but-wait-there’s-more figure. From the Greek, meaning “an interrupted joining.”

     Thanks to Dave Cantrell for sending this in to Ask Figaro. The Post story describes DNA research that promises—or threatens—to create synthetic lifeforms for use in everything from fuel additives to medicines. An opposing group, calling for a virtual ban against releasing these made-to-order organisms, crafts a sexy little dirimens copulatio.  The figure adds a bonus point to an already-strong argument: “Afraid of terrorism?” it says.  “Well, that’s not the only problem here.”

    By making its D. copulatio rhyme, the watchdog group makes error sound like an inevitable add-on to terror. Synthetic additive, indeed.

    Snappy Answer:  “What about bio-Luddites?” 

    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments (4)


    terror... error.What about paronomasia?
    Paronomasia: play on the sound or meaning of words by a slight change or transposition of letters, by a change in word-form or case.

    Arie Vrolijk
    December 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commentera. vrolijk
    Dear Figaro,

    A friend of mine suggested another name for "not just bio-terror but bio-error". He said it is an Antithesis, based on the pattern "non x, sed y".
    We are both amateurs, as you will have noticed, so we need the opinion of an expert.
    Please help us.

    Arie Vrolijk.
    December 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commentera. vrolijk
    I remember an old anti-nuclear power campaign slogan:

    "I'd rather sit in the dark than glow in the dark".

    Is this a similar case?
    December 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTurgut Berkes
    From the Greek, meaning “an interrupted joining.” - I think you'll find it's from Latin.
    May 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJB

    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.