Economists may not like House Speaker John Boehner’s voodo deficit theories, but the man sure knows his way around a balanced sentence. Take a word or two out, and you have yourself a taxophobic Robert Frost poem.
It’s not because the American people have lost their way. It’s because their government has let them down.
isocolon, the figure of balance. From the Greek, meaning “equal member.”
antithesis, the figure of contrast. From the Greek, meaning “opposing points.”
The isocolon uses parallel clauses of equal length to weigh things side by side. The antithesis does the same thing more aggressively, usually in the form of “not this but that.” Balanced sentences make you sound—well, balanced. When spoken aloud, they carry along an audience with a rhythm that makes your points seem inevitable.
But here’s the cool thing about the Boehner quote. Its meter is positively poetic, coming very close to an iambic pentameter: a one-two beat, five beats per line. Like Frost! Read these next lines aloud and emphasize the downbeats.
Frost: Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.
Boehner: It’s not because the people lost their way.
You could almost set Boehner’s line to country music! It’s enough to make Figaro cry.