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    John Cleese's Parrot Is Still Dead

    A catalog—a description that contains a list—doesn’t simply have to describe a variety of traits and objects. You can Catalog a single trait or object by rendering its synonyms. It’s an excellent way to exaggerate a particular characteristic. Remember the Monty Python dead parrot sketch?

    John Cleese: ‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!! 

    Mulitple Synonyms. Technical term: synonymia (sin-o-NIM-ia).

    You can see a kind of repetition going on here, except that it’s repetition of a concept rather than of words. The image the audience gets is of one extremely dead parrot.

    In this same vein of exaggeration, piling on synonyms also helps convey multitudinousness. 

    He was big, huge, linebacker huge, refrigerator huge, large. He contained multitudes.

    To make your own Multiple Synonyms, boil down your point to just one key word, then return to your favorite thesaurus. I just keyed “dead” into thesaurus.com, and found some additions to John Cleese’s parrot eulogy.

    This parrot has bought the farm. He has checked out. He’s defunct, departed, gone to meet his maker. He is a bygone parrot whose date has expired. He is exsanguinous, spectral and eternally imperturbable.

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    Reader Comments (1)

    I just want to let you know that I discovered your site a few days ago after already owning your book. I teach a high school linguistics course that includes a unit on rhetoric, which the students love. Your fresh servings here are providing many good examples for our lessons and activities. I had just finished playing part of a radio interview with you to the students--having to do with the difference between fighting and arguing--and then you posted the kitty video yesterday, and it was perfect!
    May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Stewart

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