12 Figures Of Speech To Uplift Your Next Dinner Out
Writers always possessed a not-so-secret need to know sophisticated words, words no one else could understand. It makes us feel special, doesn’t it? Well, today, I’ll help in that sense with a few hand-picked and fancy figures of speech.
Greek origins, unpronounceable names, complex meanings: they will make you sound insufferable and enigmatic - I promise.
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Out of hundreds of different variations and types, I chose these 12 to uplift your next dinner party and guarantee you won’t make any friends.
“If I am reading this graph correctly—I'd be very surprised.”
— Stephen Colbert
‘Paraprosdokian’ — a beautiful drug-like name — is instead a figure of speech in which the second part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that makes the reader completely reinterpret the first part.
It usually produces a humorous or dramatic effect. And for this reason, comedians and satirists love it.
“I sleep eight hours a day and at least ten at night.”
— Bill Hicks
A sentence or phrase that means the opposite of what it appears to say. We can consider it a subset of the much more common (and beloved!) rhetorical device that is irony.
We use antiphrasis every day.
Extra thought: a rhetorical device is not the same as a figure of speech (although there is much overlap). The former is a technique adopted to convey meaning and persuade. This is done through language designed to encourage or provoke an emotional display of a particular perspective or action. A figure of speech is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language - used to produce a rhetorical effect. Technically, some items on this list are rhetorical devices but not figures of speech.
A wonderful (and challenging to pronounce) rhetorical insult with a straightforward rule: the uglier and more extravagant, the better.
A nice example? This is how Leonard Pitts (Miami Herald columnist) expressed his disappointment regarding modern politicians’ lifestyles:
“I do know a con when I see one. And in politics, I see them all the time. We are courted by blow-dried, focus-grouped, stage-managed, photo-opped, sloganeering, false-smiling, hand-clasping, back-slapping would-be leaders who say they feel our pain and understand our concerns and maybe sometimes they do, but all too often, it seems they feel little and understand less. Superficiality gleams in their perfect teeth and scripted lines. They work hard to make style look just like substance.”
It’s an understatement in which the negative of the contrary expresses an affirmative.
This is best understood with an example:
“You’re not a bad writer.”
— People who think I’m bad but don’t want to offend me
It happens when you transform a word of a certain ‘word class’ into another. For example, if using a noun as a verb.
So, when you hear someone saying…
“She zoomed me but I wasn't home.”
…they’re not only unbearable for their word choice - no! - they’re also delivering an anthimeria on the spot.
“You got fired? They say you weren't good enough? Really?”
— False friends
Aporia is in place when you make faked or sincere puzzled questioning (more often? Faked ones).
It happens when you accumulate arguments concisely and forcefully.
“Your organization, your vigilance, your devotion to duty, your zeal for the cause must be raised to the highest intensity.”
— Winston Churchill
Accumulation is a classic, and we all use it. Think, for example, of the last fight you had: how many arguments did you accumulate in your statements?
This figure of speech is used for emphasis: three words that express one single idea.
“Tonight? Netflix, Chinese, and beer”
— Every normal person I know on a Tuesday
The sentence ‘Netflix, Chinese, and beer’ emphasises the single (and simple) reality that we stay home on Tuesdays nights.
Good one! This is the lovely reframing of vices as virtues - often performed with the use of euphemism.
“Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.”
— Oscar Wilde
Procrastination is my main virtue, for example.
It occurs when you define or specify the meaning of a word/phrase you use.
I think there is no need to give an example here: you get the idea, you know how annoying it can be, and you are probably already thinking of that person who does it all the time (if you are that person, well, your friends hate you).
Apophasis is a rhetorical device derived from irony and consists of bringing up a subject by denying that it should be brought up.
A classic, albeit often denigrated, political tactic.
“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would never call him 'short and fat'?”
— You can guess this one
Oh dear, this is my last gift.
You will spot it, for example, in pompous speeches that are clearly intended to impress. In fact, we define ‘grandiloquence’ as the use of lofty and extravagant language.
I have saved this for last as an open invitation to vanity.
I hope the idea will seduce you.
“Curiosity is only vanity.
We usually only want to know something so that we can talk about it.”
― Blaise Pascal, Pensées
See you next Wednesday,