Quote: “There is nothing on this earth sexier, believe me gentlemen, than a woman you have to salute in the morning.” Jack Nicholson, in an ad for Hillary Clinton.
Figure of Speech: Hyperbaton (hy-PER-ba-ton), the disordered figure. From the Greek, meaning “switch around.”
The Nicholson ad uses a montage of movie clips, starting strangely with the Joker (“It’s time for who do you trust, hubba hubba hubba, money money money…”) and ending with A Few Good Men.
“Believe me gentlemen” is a kind of parenthesis, an insertion into a sentence that could stand on its own without it. The hyperbaton, a more generic figure, changes the usual word order. It’s a great way to emphasize part of a sentence, or delay the punchline: “There is nothing sexier…wait for it…than a woman you have to salute in the morning.” (Note also the transposition of “on this earth” and “sexier”—same purpose).
Nicholson also uses the figure to hint at the tongue in his cheek; the ad wisely leaves out the rest of the quote, “Promote ‘em all, I say, ‘cause this is true: if you haven’t gotten [fellatio] from a superior officer, well, you’re just letting the best in life pass you by.”
Just when we were getting the image of Monica Lewinsky out of our heads.
Snappy answer: “That depends on what you mean by ‘salute’ [insert leer].”