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    She Doesn’t Look a Day Over 200

    Queen_1776.jpgQuote:  “Her Majesty did not appear to be amused.”  The Washington Post, after President Bush mistakenly suggested that Queen Elizabeth witnessed the American Revolution.

    Figure of Speech:  litotes (lie-TOE-tees), the figure of ironic understatement.  From the Greek, meaning “meager.”

    The Queen, Bush noted in a White House Rose Garden welcome, “helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17…”  He instantly corrected himself, saying “in 1976.”  Bush made a joke of it, saying the Queen gave him a look “only a mother could give a child.”  We’re not sure what he meant, but it probably didn’t make Her Majesty feel any younger.

    The Washington Post doesn’t help matters by quoting (in journalese) Queen Victoria, who responded to an off-color joke by one of her grooms-in-waiting:   “We are not amused.”   It’s the most famous litotes in history — which isn’t saying a whole heck of a lot, to coin another litotes.

    Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful figure to use if you want to sound royal.  Don’t bloviate.  Litoteate.

    Snappy Answer:  “She was just trying to remember what happened in 1776.”

    For more on the litotes, see page 219 of Figaro’s book.

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    Reader Comments (4)

    I beg your pardon, Figaro, but it is a little too much to say that Victoria's was the most famous litotes in history. It is certainly one of the most famous, to be sure.
    My own personal favorite, however, by Mexican hero Cuauhtémoc while tortured to reveal the location of famed hidden gold, is this: "I am not on a bed of roses." (In Spanish, ¿Crees que estoy en un lecho de rosas?)
    There is a beautiful poem referring to this litotes by Ricardo Domínguez, titled CUAUHTEMOC.
    May 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFia
    Hey, this rhetoric stuff is no picnic, you know.

    Wait. Is THAT a more famous litotes?
    May 11, 2007 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    hmmm....very interesting!
    thanks <a href=http://bigoogle.com> google </a>
    January 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRawlgalt
    Nice piece, Figaro. I shan't take issue with your, " It’s the most famous litotes in history." However, please note that "to coin a phrase" is to use it for the first time, not simply to repeat it, especially to weaken it by adding to it as you have with your, "...which isn’t saying a whole heck of a lot, [to coin another litotes]." (my brackets) which isn't saying very much. Surely here's an argument for 'less is more' if ever I saw one.
    July 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike the Real

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