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    He Just Cornered the Cat Vote

    talabani_catdancer.2.jpgQuote:  “We will not hand any Kurdish man to Turkey, even a Kurdish cat.” Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, quoted in the New York Times.

    Figure of Speech:  adynata (a-din-AH-ta), the last-people-on-earth figure.  From the Greek, meaning “without power.”

    Kurdish militants ambushed Turkish soldiers a few miles from the border with Iraq. Now Turkey is threatening to send its army across the border, and it’s demanding that Iraq capture the Kurdish militant leaders and extradite them to Istanbul.

    Instead of a mere “No way, Dude,” President Talabani retorts with a fine adynata — a figure of thought that refuses a proposition by positing an absurdly desperate or favorable hypothetical example. A boy in high school might hear the adynata for the first time when he asks a girl for a date:  “Even if you and I were the last people on earth,” she answers, “and the survival of the species depended on us, I still wouldn’t go out with you.” (For another example, involving a naked research assistant and a crate of whippets, click here.)

    You can understand why girls used the adynata on young Figaro. But why is the Iraqi chief of state talking about Kurdish cats? Because he’s in a tight spot, politically. Iraqis are not keen on having yet another army invade them. On the other hand, Talabani’s entire political base consists of Kurds. He’s talking super tough while quietly encouraging some backroom diplomacy.

    Rhetorical Lesson of the Day: When a politician spins hard one way, watch him run in the opposite direction.

    Snappy Answer:  “We’ll trade you five Turkish cats for one Kurdish militant.”

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    Reader Comments (15)

    These emails are lifesavers. I'm awash in jpegs of pumpkins sent to me by decrepit aunts and secretaries. Thank you for the intellectual CPR.
    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
    Oh, geez. Pumpkins were the topic of my next entry.


    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Are you saying that Talabani's empty rhetoric is a good thing?
    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
    Rhetoric that soothes the base and enables quiet diplomacy isn't necessarily empty. Figaro certainly prefers that kind of manipulation to the alternative.

    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    You mean lying is a good thing?
    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy
    Talabani is not lying, is he? Figaro will bet against the extradition of a single Kurdish cat.
    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    And would you call a head fake in football -- pretending to run one way before going the other way -- "lying"? That's all that Talabani is doing: faking left and running right.

    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    It's still misleading, though.
    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy
    Yes, but (to use one of Figaro's faves, the ANTITHESIS), good leading often requires misleading.

    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    I thought the antithesis used exactly the same word. Isn't your figure more of a polyptoton?
    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterToni
    Technically, I suppose you're correct, Toni. But Figaro is working on a set of figures with broad definitions that regular folks like us can use on a daily basis. And Figaro hates trying to pronounce "polyptoton." It gives him polyps.

    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    "I could not, would not, on a boat.
    I will not, will not, with a goat.
    I will not eat them in the rain.
    I will not eat them on a train.
    Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
    Not in a car! You let me be!
    I do not like them in a box.
    I do not like them with a fox.
    I will not eat them in a house.
    I do not like them with a mouse.
    I do not like them here or there.
    I do not like them ANYWHERE."

    From Green Eggs and Ham, of course. Divine uttered another fine example in the John Waters movie "Female Trouble", but I'm going with the G-rated example for now.

    Rave on, Figaro!
    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKris S.
    Wonderful, Kris. It's also a great example of COPIA, the practice of rhetorical richness.

    Dr. Seuss, ne Ted Geisel, was a Dartmouth grad. During first-year student orientation, green eggs & ham were served while a student dressed as a monk read the book in a hieratic tone.

    October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Is that really Talabani in the picture? Or a part of him?
    October 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSara
    Well, we'll vouch for his head. That's definitely Talabani's head.

    October 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro

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