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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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    The rhetorical machinations of Monty Python

    pythonsillywalk.jpgThose masters of rhetoric, the Monties of Python, make irrefutable logic and pathos with figures. Click for examples in politics and the media.

    SOLDIER #1: It’s not a question of where he grips it! It’s a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.
    Figure: syncrisis (SIN-cri-sis), the not- that- but- this figure.
    Other figures that control the issue.

    ARTHUR: Well, I am king!
    DENNIS: Oh king, eh, very nice. And how d’you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers!
    Figure: hypophora (hie-PAH-for-uh), a figure that answers your own question. (What’s the secret to comedy? Timing!)
    Other figures that make cool sounds and rhythm.

    ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake… [angels sing] … her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [singing stops] That is why I am your king!
    Figure: topothesia (to-po-THEE-sia), description of an imaginary place. It’s a form of enargia, the special effects of rhetoric.
    Other figures of emotion.

    DENNIS: Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government….
    ARTHUR: Be quiet!
    DENNIS: Well, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ‘cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
    ARTHUR: Shut up!
    DENNIS: I mean, if I went ‘round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away!
    ARTHUR: Shut up, will you. Shut up!
    Figure: synchoresis (sin-cho-REE-sis), conceding a point to make a stronger one. Closely related to paromologia.
    Other figures that let you practice rhetorical jiu-jitsu.

    ARTHUR: If you will not show us the Grail, we shall take your castle by force!
    Figure: argumentum ad baculum, “argument by the stick.” Rhetoricians consider it a fallacy, because it uses force (or the threat of force) instead of persuasion.
    Other fallacies.

    FRENCH GUARD: You don’t frighten us, English pig-dogs! Go and boil your bottom, sons of a silly person. I blow my nose at you, so-called Arthur King, you and all your silly English k-nnnnniggets. Thpppppt! Thppt!Thppt!
    GALAHAD: What a strange person.
    ARTHUR: Now look here, my good man—
    FRENCH GUARD: I don’t wanna talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! You mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!
    Figure: mycterismus (mik-terr-IS-muss), the sneer.
    Other figures that brand and insult.

    FRENCH GUARD #1: I didn’t know we were French.
    FRENCH GUARD #2: Of course, we else do you think we are talking in this ridiculous accent?
    Figure: erotesis (eh-roe-TEE-sis), the rhetorical question.
    Other figures that control the issue.

    ZOOT: Oh, I am afraid our life must seem very dull and quiet compared to yours. We are but eight score young blondes and brunettes, all between sixteen and nineteen-and-a-half, cut off in this castle with no one to protect us. Ohhh. It is a lonely life: bathing, dressing, undressing, making exciting underwear.
    Figure: diazeugma (die-ah-ZOOG-ma), the play-by-play figure. It has one subject and many verbs. The quote qualifies, although the “verbs” are gerunds, which technically are nouns.
    Other figures that make cool sounds and rhythm.

    HEAD KNIGHT: You must return here with a shrubbery or else you will never pass through this wood alive!
    Figure: perclusio (per-CLOO-sio), the threat.

    ROGER: Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can ‘ni’ at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land. Nothing is sacred.
    Figure: jeremiad (jer-e MI-ad), the prophecy of doom, or a darkly metaphysical explanation of a disaster; also called cataplexis.
    Other figures of emotion.

    ROGER: Yes. Shrubberies are my trade. I am a shrubber. My name is Rogerthe Shrubber. I arrange, design, and sell shrubberies.
    Figure: polyptoton (po-LIP-to-ton), the root repeater.
    Other figures that change, swap or invent.

    HEAD KNIGHT: Shh! We are now the Knights Who Say ‘Ecky-ecky-ecky-ecky-pikang-zoop-boing-goodem-zoo-owli-zhiv’.
    RANDOM: Ni!
    HEAD KNIGHT: Therefore, we must give you a test.
    ARTHUR: What is this test, O Knights of— Knights Who ‘Til Recently Said ‘Ni’?
    Figure: circumlocution (cir-cum-lo-CUE-tion), the rhetorical end run.
    Other figures that say two things at once.

    FATHER: Listen, lad. I built this kingdom up from nothing. When I started here, all there was was swamp. Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show ‘em. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one… stayed up! And that’s what you’re gonna get, lad: the strongest castle in these islands.
    Figure: fable or parable (parabola), the storytelling example.
    Other figures of emotion.

    SECOND BROTHER: And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying,’O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade that with it thou mayest blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.’ And the Lord did grin, and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals and fruit bats and large chu—
    MAYNARD: Skip a bit, Brother.
    Figure: anaphora (ann-AH-for-ah), the first-word repeater. (Also see this.)
    Other figures that make cool sounds and rhythm.

    SECOND BROTHER: And the Lord spake, saying, ‘First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.’
    Figure: epergesis (eh-per-GEE-sis), the clarifier. (Also see this.)
    Other figures of logic.

    FRENCH GUARD: How you English say, ‘I one more time, mac, unclog my nose in your direction’, sons of a window-dresser! So, you think you could out-clever us French folk with your silly knees-bent running about advancing behavior?!
    Figure: cacozelia (cak-o- ZEEL-ee-ah), using foreign words and other ways to display one’s erudition—only to look like an idiot.
    Other figures of stupidity.

    ARTHUR: In the name of the Lord, we demand entrance to this sacred castle!
    Figure: apomnemonysis (a-pom-nem-o-NIE-sis) , the figure that quotes an authority.
    Other figures of endorsement.

    FORMER LEPER: Look. I’m not saying that being a leper was a bowl of cherries. But it was a living.
    Figure: litotes (lie TOE tees), the figure of ironic understatement, usually negative. (Also see this. And this.)
    Other figures that say two things at once.

    BEN: Oh, yeah. If we didn’t have crucifixion, this country would be in a right bloody mess.
    Figure: epiphonema (eh-pih-fo-NEE-ma), the memorable summary.
    Other figures of logic.

    MAN #4: Right. I had to get up at ten o’clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down at the mill and pay the mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our mother and father would kill us and dance on our graves singing Halleluja.
    MAN #1: Aye, and you try telling young people of today that. And they won’t believe you.
    MAN #4: Aye, they won’t!
    Figure: bathos, the unintentionally hilarious emotional appeal.

    SHOPKEEPER: Oh, yes, the Norwegian Blue. What’s wrong with it?
    PRALINE: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it.
    Shopkeeper: No, no it’s resting, look!
    Figure: correctio (cor-REK-tio), the correction.
    Other figures that control the issue.

    PRALINE: Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot, and I discovered that the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been nailed there.

    SHOPKEEPER: Well of course it was nailed there. Otherwise it would muscle up to those bars and VOOM!
    Figure: concessio (con-SESS-io. The Greek name is paromologia (pa-ro-mo-LO-gia). It’s a jiu jitsu move—strategically conceding a point in order to use it to your own advantage. (Also see this.)
    Other figures that practice rhetorical jiu-jitsu.

    PRALINE: It’s not pining, it’s passed on. This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late parrot. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn’t nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies. It’s rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot.
    Figure: synonymia (sin-oh-NIM-ia), the use of multiple synonyms to elaborate.

    PEASANT: “I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.”
    Cardinal Ximinez: “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…. Our four …no… Amongst our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise…. I’ll come in again.”
    Figure: metanoia (met-ah-NOY-a), the self-correcting figure.

    PRINCE HERBERT: But I don’t like her.
    KING OF SWAP CASTLE: Don’t like her? What’s wrong with her. She’s beautiful, she’s rich, she’s got huge … tracts of land.
    Figure: paraprosdokian (pa-ra-proze-DOKE-ian), the surprise ending.
    Other figures of humor.

    MINSTRAL [singing]: When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled. Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about, and valiantly, he chickened out. Bravely taking to his feet, he beat a very brave retreat. A brave retreat by brave Sir Robin.
    Figure: antistasis (an-TIH-sta-sis), the repeat that reverses a word’s meaning. (Also see this.)
    Other figures that change, swap or invent.

    KING OF SWAMP CASTLE : Please! This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who.
    Figure: amphidiorthosis (am-phi-die-or-THO-sis), the watered-down charge. You cool off an angry statement, either before or after.
    Other calming figures.

    GOD : Every time I try to talk to someone it’s “sorry this” and “forgive me that” and “I’m not worthy”…
    Figure: dialogismus (die-ah-log-IS mus), the one-person conversation.

    King Arthur : [after Arthur’s cut off both of the Black Knight’s arms] Look, you stupid Bastard. You’ve got no arms left.
    Black Knight : Yes I have.
    King Arthur : Look!
    Black Knight : It’s just a flesh wound.
    Figure: correctio (cor-REK-tio), the correction.
    Other figures of logic.