Figure of Speech: anesis (AN-eh-sis), the deflating figure. From the Greek, meaning “abatement.”
Figaro doesn’t mean to pick on Jim Carrey, but the Times’ review of his latest movie gives us a chance to talk about a really first-rate figure of irony.
The anesis starts with a thought and tacks on a deflating phrase, clause or sentence. The result is interesting: instead of letting the air out of that thought, the anesis ironically inflates it. The reviewer could have said, “The movie is grim and badly done.” Instead, he piled an anesis on top of an insult.
The figure works best when it gives the appearance of conceding a point. In Ask Figaro, our friend Michael at AmericanRhetoric.com offered this classic example from John F. Kennedy. JFK conceded that the space budget had tripled in one year to $400 million — “a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year.” Smokin’!
Snappy Answer: “And Carrey is a fine comedian, especially when he’s trying to act.”