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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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    Don't Call It a War

    dropping_gifts.jpgQuote:   “This is no more a war on terrorism than the Second World War was a war on submarines.”  Marine Lieutenant General Wallace Gregson

    Figure of Speech:   Antapodosis (an tah POE doe sis), the side-by-side figure

    A kind of simile in which the nouns and verbs correspond, the antapodosis can be one of the most persuasive of all figures.  Take Woody Allen’s convincing summary of secondary education:  “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

    General Gregson’s antapodosis supports a favorite new tag line minted by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: what used to be a war on terrorism is now a “global struggle against extremism.” 

    Snappy Answer:    "So it's  not a war, it’s a struggle; therefore we’re not fighting, we’re...what?"



    Hutz.gifQuote:  “Well, he’s kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace 'accidentally' with 'repeatedly,' and replace 'dog' with 'son.'  Lionel Hutz, a character in "The Simpsons"

    Figure of Speech:   Epexegesis (ee pex uh GEE sis), the figure of elaboration

    Lawyer Lionel Hutz  invariably tells the truth, the whole truth, through sheer incompetence:  “ I’ve argued in front of every judge in this state—often as a lawyer.”  He endearingly addends himself with the figure of speech called epexegesis (“explanation” in Greek).  The epexegesis adds material to clarify a statement. In Hutz’s case, it clarifies to the point of disaster. 

    Snappy Answer:   "I think I'll replace my attorney.  Period."


    Suffer the Little Stem Cells

    god billboard.gifQuote: "It isn't just a matter of faith. It's a matter of science.” Senate majority leader and early-out-of-the-gate presidential aspirant Bill Frist, arguing for federal funding for stem-cell research

    Figure of Speech: Syncrisis (SIN crih sis), the not-that-but-this figure

    Pity the politician who has to balance faith and politics. Talk about strange bedfellows (not to imply that Senator Frist believes in bedfellows, God forbid). When Frist tried combining faith, medicine and politics for a brain-dead woman, the results were awkward. So what do you do when three quarters of The People want to use stem cells, and crucial supporters don't? Bring out the syncrisis! A figure of speech that compares or contrasts, it's most useful in defining an issue.

    If we were Frist, we'd avoid playing golf in a thunderstorm.

    Snappy Answer: "So which wins, Senator? Faith or science?"


    “Popular Will?” Isn’t That a LIBERAL Term?

    john roberts.jpgQuote: "Not only are unelected jurists with life tenure less attuned to the popular will than regularly elected officials, but judicial policy making is also inevitably inadequate or imperfect policy making." John Roberts, responding to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire

    Term: Dirimens copulatio (DIH ri mens cop u LAT ee oh), the but-wait-there's-more figure

    John Robert is the Wonder Bread nominee. Boring haircut. Boring record, race, gender and ethnicity. Good thing we have rhetoric to rescue us from the tedium. While the Democrats can't find a single interesting fetish in the man, we can cry dirimens copulatio. That's Latin for "a joining together that interrupts," according to Richard Lanham.

    We thought that defined coitus interruptus, a birth-control method practiced by Catholic Supreme Court nominees. But we never quibble with the Strunk & White of rhetoric.

    Snappy Answer: "You just did a Dirimens copulatio. It makes me hot."


    "One Nation Under God (Except for the Blue States)"

    flag shirt.jpgQuote: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible…"

    Figure of Speech: Parenthesis (puh REN the sis), the by-the-way figure

    Parenthesis means "insertion" in Greek. It lets you insert a thought within a thought. The Pledge of Allegiance contains a literal parenthesis: Congress inserted "under God" in 1954, 57 years after a socialist(!) minister wrote the Pledge.

    Advocacy groups want to insert more parentheses. Some pro-lifers want the Pledge to end "with liberty and justice for all, born and unborn." Personally, we’d like "liberty and justice for all, except people who drive while talking on their cell phones."

    Snappy Answer: "'One nation' and 'indivisible' seem a bit out of date, don't you think?"


    If Bill Had Great Interns, Then Hillary...

    hilary clinton.jpgQuote:  “Britain, where there remains far more overt sexism in public life, made Margaret Thatcher prime minister more than two decades ago.” Article in Slate, "But Why Can't Hillary Win?"

    Term:  a fortiori (ah for tee AR ee), the Mikey-likes-it! argument

    Remember the commercial for Life Cereal, the one where the brothers experiment on picky little Mikey?  If Mikey liked it, the boys figured, anyone would.  That's an argument a fortiori:  If something less likely is true, then something more likely will probably be true as well.

    Margaret Thatcher plays Mikey in Jacob Weisberg’s assertion in Slate that Hillary Clinton has a good shot at the White House.  Hey, Weisberg argues, if those soccer hooligans across the pond can elect a woman, surely our more advanced civilization can. 

      Snappy Answers:  

      1. "Who says those Limey fruits are more sexist than we are?"
      2. "Are you sure Maggie Thatcher was a woman?"