Quote: “Whoop-dee-damn-doo.” Clarence Thomas, upon learning the Senate had confirmed his nomination to the Supreme court, in his new memoir.
Figure of Speech: tmesis (tih-ME-sis), the insertion. From the Greek, meaning “cut.”
Clarence Thomas remains bitter over his 1991 confirmation hearings — one of the more sordid moments in modern American politics, which is saying a lot. The Democrats used Thomas’s accuser, Anita Hill, with lugubrious cynicism, and they set a nice precedent for the Republicans to follow during Clinton’s impeachment. But does Justice Thomas have to keep calling his hearings a “lynch mob”?
We do like his tmesis, though. The figure, which inserts a word into the middle of another word, is great for amplifying a thought or sounding funny. “Whoop-de-damn-doo” must have sounded terrific in Thomas’s southern accent as he twirled a soapy, apathetic finger in the air. (He was taking a bath when his wife brought him the news, a picture Figaro does not choose to imagine.)
Snappy Answer: “Abso-damn-lutely right.”