Archive for the ‘overview’ Category

Chleuasmos Overview

December 10, 2011 3 comments

Chleuasmos, as defined by Richard Lanham, is a sarcastic reply that mocks an opponent, leaving him or her without an answer, from the Greek, “mockery, irony” (34).  For a clearer understanding of this rhetorical concept, consider this example.  Sir Winston Churchill, well known for his skillful use of chleuasmos, practiced it often during his verbal skirmishes with Lady Astor.  It seems these two had a history of not getting along.  Lady Astor approaches Churchill at a social function saying, “Sir Winston, if you were my husband, I’d poison your coffee.” To which he replies, “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”  Here, Churchill completely takes the upper hand in this parley, and, although Lady Astor’s remark stings, Churchill’s reply trumps her insult completely.  How does one respond to someone saying he would choose death over being married to you?
 Chleuasmos, however, requires more than simply slinging more mud to top your adversary’s sarcastic remarks, attaining it requires the skillful and intelligent use of rhetoric.  In classic cases of chleuasmos, as demonstrated with the Lady Astor/Winston Churchill exchange, the final line that typically stuns and silences one’s antagonist contains more wit than insult.  Most anyone can fire off insult after insult, however, when the taunted counters with a contemptuous response supported with unexpected intelligence, the result is often an opponent left standing, fairly well insulted, but also somewhat in awe of his or her insulter.
 In this regard, chleuasmos also works to put an end to the verbal strife, thereby allowing events to proceed as normal.  Frequently, when one achieves chleuasmos, a moment of stunned silence lingers but then the activity, taking place prior to the verbal altercation, resumes. Therefore, even though, chleuasmos may seem confrontational, it actually serves the opposite effect by ending the bickering.

Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms: Second Edition. Los Angeles: UCP. 1991. Print.

Categories: chleuasmos, overview

Aporia: Description and Introduction

December 9, 2011 2 comments

 Aporia is essentially the subtle art of making something look more difficult than it is in order to either get what you want, or to make a point. This takes various forms, from either directly stating that something is difficult, to simply deliberating over a point to make yourself seem less certain and therefore less invested in the point. Additionally, this tactic gives the audience an opportunity to come to the conclusion on their own, which is an incredibly effective device.

Aporia is also a pretty butterfly. But only after the cocoon stage. Be patient.


The reasons for its effectiveness are twofold. First, it is a form of rhetorical asymmetric warfare. It avoids direct confrontation by seeming to defuse the situation. By making yourself seem less combative and opposed to your opponent you gain an advantage. Second, it makes you seem to be reasoned and enlightened. That is, you look as though you have arrived at your conclusion (if you choose to make one openly) through deliberation rather than your opponent, who is probably still screaming his initial bias.

The larval form of Aporia is somewhat less graceful.


Note: Pictures are of things that share the name, for comedic effect.

Enargia Overview

December 9, 2011 9 comments

Enargia: Overview

According to Lanham, enargia refers to a powerful, vivid description that recreates something or someone, as several theorists say “before your eyes” (Lanham).  Brigham Young University’s Silva Rhetoicae describes enargia as “a generic name for a group of figures aiming at vivid, lively description”  (Burton). Enargia is mentally visualized in  Twilight Series: Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer, when Meyer describes the vivid, excruciating pain of Bella going into labor with the spawn of a vampire into her human body:

Inside me, something had yanked the opposite direction. Ripping. Breaking. Agony. The darkness had taken over, and then washed away to a wave of torture. I couldn’t breath- I had drowned once before, and this was different; it was too hot in my throat. Pieces of me shattering, snapping, slicking apart. More blackness.

Meyer’s use of verbs and adjectives, such as, Ripping. Breaking. Agony. is a powerful description of how it felt to be in labor with a half vampire-half human baby. It supports the idea of Bella’s life being on the line. The text does not say exactly what was ripping and breaking, but readers can infer that her whole body was in extreme pain and agony.

Enargia is not only used in books, but in song lyrics, poems and even in movies reflecting on a time other than the present. All uses of enargia are visual, whether the audience is seeing it “before their eyes”. They can visualize what it is describing with all five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Enargia requires a powerful use of description in all parts of the sentence. Nouns and verbs can be just as descriptive as an adjective or adverb.

Blackness: noun

Ripping: verb

Enargia can achieve a powerful smell, taste, image and much more. The possibilities are endless. Moreover, the perception of the reader depends on how enargia is presented.


Lanham, Richard A. “Enargia.” A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. 2nd ed. Berkeley: U of California P, 1991. Print.


Burton, Gideon O. “Enargia.” Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. Brigham Young University, n.d. Web. 7 Dec 2011. <;.


Categories: enargia, overview Tags:

Apoplanesis Overview

December 8, 2011 2 comments

As Lanham defines, apoplanesis flaunts its rhetorical prowess by “evading the issue by digressing”; it essentially provides an “irrelevant answer to distract attention from a difficult point” (19). Simply stated, apoplanesis is the avoidance of a topic or subject; rather than being an outright dismissal, apoplanesis digresses away from a difficult point. Digression, however, can prove to be a tricky device if used incorrectly. When used in an ineffective way, the digression of a subject leads way to apoplanesis’ potential clumsiness. Examples of such awkwardness are rampant throughout political speeches, debates, arguments, etc. When cornered with difficult or inconvenient subject matter, one must handle his or her responses with an efficient and satisfactory use of apoplanesis. If unprepared or inexperienced with apoplanesis, one may damage any reputation or credibility by metaphorically stumbling over it.

Rather than providing an example of real-world politics to illustrate his definition, Lanham calls upon an example in Shakespeare’s The Second Part of Henry the Fourth. Examples such as his provided one are undoubtedly commonplace in Shakespeare’s historical tetralogies, as well as in his comedies and tragedies. Shakespeare’s wit and conversational mastery brim with apoplanesis. Even though numerous scholarly works could be composed over rhetorical applications in the works of Shakespeare, such examples do not directly relate to contemporary readers. Apoplanesis within modern society functions through a variety of means: pop culture, literature, politics, etc. Used either blatantly or subtly, apoplanesis functions frequently, though not ordinarily recognized, throughout societal interactions.

Lanham, Richard A. “Apoplanesis.” A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. 2nd ed. Berkeley: U of California P, 1991. Print.

Categories: apoplanesis, overview


December 8, 2011 3 comments

According to Lanham, meiosis is defined as “To belittle, often through a trope of one word; use a degrading epithet.  Sometimes it overlaps with litotes.  See also tapinosis.”  While on the other hand, Silva-Rhtoricae defines meiosis as a “reference to something with a name dispropotionately lesser than its nature (a kind of litotes).”  While both of these definitions can be overwhelming a simplified defintion could help.  This definition would be saying that meiosis is just a understatement.  This would be like using the word “stream” to refer to the Mississippi River.  This makes the subject, Mississippi  River, much less severe, stream, than it actually is and makes it seem attainable to grasp and even possible to cross easily.

Two other terms that closely relate to this idea are litotes and tapinosis.  According to Silva-Rhetoricae, litotes can be difined as a “deliberate understatement, especially when expressing a thought by denying its opposite.”  This is like saying “he is not the wisest man in the world.”  This kind of sounds like a compliment but to the contrary, it is saying that he is dumb.  The other term, tapinosis, can be defined as “giving a name to something that diminishes it in importance.”  This is like calling the Atlantic Ocean a pond, as used into saying that England is just across the pond.

Burton, Gideon C. “Litotes.” Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. Brigham Young University, 26 Feb. 2007. Web. 09 Dec. 2011.

Burton, Gideon C. “Tapinosis.” Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. Brigham Young University, 26 Feb. 2007. Web. 09 Dec. 2011.

Burton, Gideon C. “Meiosis.” Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. Brigham Young University, 26 Feb. 2007. Web. 09 Dec. 2011.

Lanham, Richard A. “Meiosis.” A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California, 1991. 98. Print.

Categories: meiosis, overview

Hyperbaton: Overview

December 8, 2011 2 comments

Hyperbaton is a rhetorical device employed in writing, film, and virtually every other medium in either textual or visual form.  Brigham Young University’s Silva Rhetoricae gave two definitions for the device.  First, hyperbaton was defined as an inversion of normal word order in addition to a simile of anastrophe.  Second, hyperbaton employed the addition of another word into a semantically correct sentence, drawing attention to the added word (Burton).  For example of the first definition, Edgar Allan Poe employed hyperbaton in The Tell-Tale Heart when the protagonist speaks in the opening.  He said, “Object there was none. Passion there was none” (Poe).  In both sentences, Poe transposed “object” and “passion” to the front of their respective sentence, instead of having the sentences read, “There was no object/passion.”  By doing so, Poe amplified the emphasis on the fact that the protagonist lacked reason for hiding the heart below the floorboards or passion when performing the actions.

Speech is not the only medium in which one finds usage of hyperbaton.  Movie and television plots with nonlinear storytelling all employ hyperbaton in a different method with different effects of the directed emphasis.  Part of the non-linear model, many directors use flashbacks and premonitions as another form of hyperbaton.  With a brief glimpse of Christopher Nolan’s directorial history, one can find a plethora of these examples.

Burton, Gideon O. “Hyperbaton.” Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. Brigham Young University, n.d. Web. 7 Dec 2011. <;.

Poe, Edgar Allan.  “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  1843.  Found on

Picture Credit:

Clarke, Harry.  Illustration of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” 1919. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. By Edgar Allan Poe.

Categories: fiction, hyperbaton, overview

Praesumptio: Overview

December 7, 2011 3 comments

                The definition of the rhetorical term praesumptio means presumption; anticipation of objection; stubbornness; and enjoying anticipation according to the Latin dictionary (Latin Lookup). According to Lanham, the Latin term means “anticipation” (pg 118).

The meaning of this rhetorical term can be used to describe specific moments from situations that occur in every walk of life. The anticipation of something does not always make us happy, nor does it always mean pleasurable because we find ourselves at times expecting the worst things and foresee situations going terribly wrong. We all find ourselves anticipating something or another, and then immediately thinking of consequences of our anticipation. Something that has not happened yet is easy to anticipate, but objections from this can drive us a bit crazy.

            In modern day popular culture, examples of praesumptio can be found in a variety of different categories. Praesumptio is found in song lyrics, television commercials, television shows, movies, novels, you name it. To take a deeper look into this rhetorical term, examples from such categories will be used to achieve this deeper explanation.

Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms: Second Edition. Los Angeles: UCP. 1991. Print.

Latin Lookup. Latin Lookup. 4 December 2011 <;.