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    Did the Earth Move for You?


    Quote:  “The biggest problem with earthquake prediction studies is that you do not know when there will be an earthquake.”  Alasdair Skelton , Stockholm University, Sweden

    Figure of Speech:  Catch-22; or, in rhetoric, autophasia, the rule that chases its own tail. From the Greek, meaning “speaks of itself.”

    Poor Professor Skelton.  If he only knew when an earthquake was going to happen, his prediction could be 100 percent accurate.  But then he’d be out of a job.  Thanks to the nimble Figarist Jack Quick for providing today’s quote.  It’s a superb example of an autophasia, a rule that one must violate to obey. 

    Long before Joseph Heller’s classic novel, the ancients knew their Catch-22.  After all, it takes a logician to catch an illogician.

    Snappy Answer:  “To paraphrase our President, we Americans don’t predict earthquakes.  We make them.”

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    Reader Comments (2)

    Dear Figaro - My 8th graders and I would have identified this statement as an acrylogia or a Yogi-ism ("Making predictions is hard, especially about the future"), which we also identified as malapropism. How is autophasia distinct?
    June 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMark
    What a smart bunch of eighth graders you must have, Mark! Let's be sure we don't lead them astray by mixing our autophasias and our Yogiisms.

    A Yogiism is a kind of fallacy that makes a higher-wisdom kind of sense. Some also qualify as Catch-22s, and some don't. "No one goes there anymore. It's too crowded." "When you find a fork in the road, take it." Those really aren't autophasias, because they aren't rules that must be violated to follow them.

    For more on Yogiisms, see this: http://www.figarospeech.com/it-figures/2005/7/30/yogiisms-dont-make-sense-till-you-get-them.html

    June 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMark

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