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Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
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    Freaks and Stoners, Jesus and Meth

    Figaro’s daughter, Dorothy Junior, sent us this link to a world stereotype map.  The stereotype is a great rhetorical concept, in part because of its etymological link to that rhetorically useful device, the cliché. 

    Cliché is a French onomatopoeia meaning “click,” the sound an old-fashioned typesetter made when he tapped melted lead against a cast. The end product was a reusable block of type called a stereotype.

    Both cliché and stereotype have morphed into low-class metaphors, but they bear a deep neurological significance. Basically, people think in terms of stereotypes and clichés—prefab chunks of information and attitudes that combine to form perceptions and understanding.

    In high school print shop Figaro learned to collect letters into common words and expressions that he could throw into his stick on the fly. Our brains do this, too. Cognitively speaking, a cow is a set of stereotypes: animal, livestock, thing that lives on a farm, milk producer, hamburger on the hoof. The problem with stereotyping only arises when we feed the wrong type into our mental sticks, or when we misread the type we have. Mark Twain understood the problem with using the wrong type mentally. “A cat that sits on a hot stove won’t sit on a hot stove again,” he said. “But it won’t sit on a cold stove, either.”

    Figaro doesn’t stove. He microwaves.

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    Reader Comments (6)

    As a resident of the capital of "Drunks and Nothing," I thank you for this fine summary of one of the world's most advanced nations.
    November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRenee
    Thank you, Renee, for that exquisitely Canadian polite sarcasm.
    November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    "Freaks" is too weak for the Northeast. "Snobs and unions" would be better.
    November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDick
    The map seems to include Idaho among the "Stoners." Has the mapmaker BEEN to Idaho???
    November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Segash
    In the full map (click on the link), Australia is "Arkansas with a beach." Love it!
    November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia
    "Arkansas with a beach" qualifies as a figure I call the "Like...only" technique. It's like Arkansas, only with a beach.
    November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro

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