The president made a nifty Root Repeater, a.k.a. polyptoton, in this afternoon’s deficit speech. The device upends the audience’s expectations while making you sound very wise. If only the rest the speech had lived up to this great figure.
We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in.
Figure of Speech: Polyptoton (po-LIP-toe-ton), Greek for “multiple grammatical cases.” It repeats the root of a word while changing its ending — sacrifices and sacrifice in this instance. Robert Frost used the figure when he said, “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”
The rest of the speech earns a “meh” from Figaro. The stuff about all of us being connected is straight out of the squishy liberal The World Is a Community prayerbook. We wish he had used a strong trope to sell his argument for ending tax cuts for the wealthy. If we were Obama’s speechwriter, we would have written something like this:
Obama: We’re lucky to be Americans. And those who, like me, are especially lucky need to pay our dues.
What we’d really like to say to the richest Americans is, “Can you please stop WHINING?” But that wouldn’t be politic.