Quote: “An economy in peril. A country at war. A future uncertain.” TV commercial for Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.
Figure of Speech: anastrophe (an-ASS-tro-phee), the Yoda figure. From the Greek, meaning “a turning back.” Also asyndeton (a-SIN-de-ton), the conjunction skipper.
The anastrophe Yodafizes sentences by switching words around to make them sound good. (In trouble the country is! ) It can be one of the most poetic figures, as well as the most bizarre. In the case of the Giuliani ad, it’s poetically bizarre — or bizarrely poetic.
The writers painted themselves into a syntactical corner with a series of incomplete sentences, requiring absolute symmetry: A subject ( economy) in object (peril). A subject (country) at object (war). A subject (future)…hey, how did an adjective like “uncertain” get in there? To fix the problem, the ad people changed”uncertain future” to “future uncertain” to make the adjective sound like the object of a preposition.
Yeah, it still seems awkward, but maybe that’s the point. The shaky syntax sounds uncertain. Like the future. Uneasy it makes us. Vote for Giuliani we must.
Snappy Answer: “Please. Shut. Up.”