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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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    We Want to Meet Ms. Pneumatic

    From Ask Figaro:

     Dear Figaro,

    A friend just sent me this query: One of our architect’s little girls is visiting the office today and is reading a book where the characters’ names represent them (like Mrs. Little is tiny and Mr. Quatro teaches fourth grade). I know there’s a for it but can’t remember it. Can you help?

    I think it’s just a pun, but she’s not so sure. What say you?

    Thank you!


    Dear Bonnie,

    The Littles and Quatros of this world constitute a periphrasis (per IF rah sis), the figure that swaps a description for a proper name. That’s Greek for “speak around.” While most periphrases are more than one word (e.g., He Who Must Not Be Named), the descriptive one-word nickname counts as well. 


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    Reader Comments (2)

    These are also examples of aptronyms, right? Authors frequently do this to varying degrees, from Romeo's cousin and confidant, Benvolio (as in benevolent) to Harper Lee's Atticus Finch (as in 'atticism' meaning concise and elegant speech).
    August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjmack
    Yes, that's another word for the punning name.
    August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro

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