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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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    Talk Your Way Out of a Traffic Ticket

    You may be interested in our sister site, ArgueLab, which has a post and fun video on how to get out of a ticket. The story might be familiar to you. You can find it here.



    Can Cicero Help You Snag a College or Job?

    Why, yes he can.

    In Thank You for Arguing, Jay shows how the Ciceronian outline can help you make a winning speech or presentation. That same outline can work for a job or college interview. It’s simple:

    Start with a good first impression, boosting your ethos—the audience’s impression of your character. Show you know the job and would be good at it, that you understand the company, and that you’d be a good fit. The same things work for a college, only they’re also looking for virtue, signs that you’re a good, mature person. Talk about the lessons you’ve learned. Be confident but humble.

    Next, ask good questions and show a command of the facts. Make your case for why you’re better than the competition. Tell a good story of a problem you solved.

    Finally, don’t be afraid to show a little emotion. Don’t sing opera or burst out sobbing. Just a little passion. Say how excited you are about the possibility of working or studying at this wonderful place, and that you’re sure you’re the perfect fit. Let your eyes shine, lean forward a little and—lower your voice a bit. Strangely enough, speaking more quietly can show more passion, as if you’re sharing a secret.

    Watch this video to see how our ArgueLab colleague, Christina, does it.


    The Art of Framing

    What does it mean to “frame” an issue? Is it like framing a picture of your sweet grandmother, the one where she’s smoking her favorite pipe?

    Yeah, kind of. To frame an issue means to put it in your own box, setting up the terms and context in a way that favors you. (To get the details about framing, see Thank You for Arguing, revised edition, page 123.)

    The most important tool of framing is redefinition, in which you redefine the terms of the argument. The tobacco industry did this neatly back in the 1970s, when it talked about the “controversy” over the health hazards of smoking. Scientists and doctors saw no controversy at all. Smoking is terrible for you, period. But the word “controversy” framed the smoking issue by sowing doubt. And guess what framing word climate change deniers are using these days? Yep. “Controversy.”

    Here’s a video that uses framing to answer a question from a high school student. Tell us what you think in the comments.


    When Is Manipulation a Good Thing

    When it leads to consensus. That’s one of Figaro’s favorite words. It comes from the Latin, meaning “common belief” or “knowing together.” In other words, it means agreement.

    The adjectival form, consensual, gets sexy. It means an agreed-upon act. Rhetoric teaches that to get all consensual, it helps to get the juices flowing with a little seduction.

    In our sister site, ArgueLab, Christina Fox shows how seduction and argument are kissing cousins.


    The Ultimate Rhetorical Strategy: Honest Flattery

    Yes, we know, word lovers. Flattery is never honest. We’re just making a rhetorical point here in honor of Mother’s Day, when honesty and flattery truly go together.

    For our sister site, ArgueLab, We posted this video on how to flatter a mom to useful effect.


    Thou Shalt Not Command a Mood

    We’re devoting much of our time to our sister site, ArgueLab, but Figaro hasn’t disappeared altogether. He’s especially interested in the latest ArgueLab video, because it contains what linguists and grammarians call the command mood.

    A mood signals the purpose of a sentence. For instance, the interrogative mood has to do with a question. The indicative mood states a fact. The subjunctive mood—well, let’s not get all moody here. This is rhetoric, after all.

    One of the biggest rhetorical mistakes is to use a command to order someone’s mood. In this video, Christina’s imaginary boyfriend, Ryan Gosling, tells her to calm down. That’s the command mood commanding a mood. The results are predictable. But Christina also offers a solution.

    Got questions for Figaro? Comment below or get yourself straight to ArgueLab.