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SCHEMES -- Schemes are figures of speech that deal with word order, syntax, letters, and sounds, rather than the meaning of words, which involves tropes.

* The examples below come from multiple sources. The first is an informal compilation given to me by Dr. Jerri Williams of West Texas State University. The second source is a wonderful collection: Figures of Speech by Arthur Quinn (I highly recommend acquiring a copy if you are serious about becoming a master rhetor). A few other examples originate in my students' past papers. For extended examples and discussion, see Arthur Quinn's Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase, or J. A. Cuddon's Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, or Richard A. Lanham's A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd edition.

Parallelism -- when the writer establishes similar patterns of grammatical structure and length. For instance, "King Alfred tried to make the law clear, precise, and equitable." The previous sentence has parallel structure in use of adjectives. However, the following sentence does not use parallelism: "King Alfred tried to make clear laws that had precision and were equitable."

If the writer uses two parallel structures, the result is isocolon parallelism: "The bigger they are, the harder they fall."

If there are three structures, it is tricolon parallelism: "That government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth." Or, as one student wrote, "Her purpose was to impress the ignorant, to perplex the dubious, and to startle the complacent." Shakespeare used this device to good effect in Richard II when King Richard laments his unfortunate position:

I'll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
My gay apparel for an almsman's gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood . . . . (3.3.170-73).

See also hypallage, below under hyperbaton.

Antithesis (plural antitheses) -- contrary ideas expressed in a balanced sentence. It can be a contrast of opposites: "Evil men fear authority; good men cherish it." Or it can be a contrast of degree: "One small step for a man, one giant leap for all mankind."

Antimetabole -- (also called Epanados) repetition in reverse order: "One should eat to live, not live to eat." Or, "You like it; it likes you." The witches in that Scottish play chant, "Fair is foul and foul is fair." Antimetabole often overlaps with chiasmus, below.

Chiasmus (from Greek, "cross" or "x"): A literary scheme involving a specific inversion of word order. It involves taking parallelism and deliberately turning it inside out, creating a "crisscross" pattern. For example,, consider the chiasmus that follows: "By day the frolic, and the dance by night." If we draw the words as a chart, the words form an "x" (hence the word's Greek etymology):

The sequence is typically a b b a. Examples: "I lead the life I love; I love the life I lead." "Naked I rose from the earth; to the grave I fall clothed." Chiasmus often overlaps with antimetabole.

Alliosis -- presenting alternatives: "You can eat well or you can sleep well." While such a structure often results in the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy or the either/or fallacy, it can create a cleverly balanced and artistic sentence.

Ellipsis -- omitting a word implied by the previous clause: "The European soldiers killed six of the remaining villagers, the American soldiers, eight."

Asyndeton -- using no conjunctions to create an effect of speed or simplicity: Veni. Vidi. Vici. "I came. I saw. I conquered." (As opposed to "I came, and then I saw, and then I conquered.") Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt.

Polysyndeton -- using many conjunctions to achieve an overwhelming effect: "This term, I am taking biology and English and history and math and music and physics and sociology." All those ands make the student sound like she is completely overwhelmed! For a literary example of polysyndeton, click here.

Climax (also called Auxesis and "Crescendo") -- arrangement in order of increasing importance: "Let a man acknowledge his obligations to himself, his family, his country, and his God."

The opposite is called bathos (not to be confused with pathos or emotional appeal). Bathos is usually used humorously. Here, the least important item appears anticlimactically in a place where the reader expects something grand or dramatic. For instance, "I am making a stand in this workplace for human decency, professional integrity, and free doughnuts at lunch-break."

Schemes that Break the Rules:

How to Misspell Words and Ignore Grammar Like a Pro.

Enallage -- intentionally misusing grammar to characterize a speaker or to create a memorable phrase. Boxing manager Joe Jacobs, for instance, became immortal with the phrase, "We was robbed!" Or, the editors of Punch magazine might tell their British readers, "You pays your money, and you takes your chances."

Anapodoton -- deliberately creating a sentence fragment by the omission of a clause: "If only you came with me!" If only students knew what anapodoton was! Good writers never use sentence fragments? Ah, but they can. And they do. When appropriate.

Neologism -- creating a new or imaginary word. For example, Lewis Caroll writes: "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / did gyre and gimble in the wabe; / All mimsy were the borogoves, / and the mome raths outgrabe." His lines here contain numerous imaginary words--though these might be excessive in a rhetorical writing rather than a literary one like his poem. Many neologisms result from metaplasmus, as discussed and subdivided below.

Metaplasmus --a type of neologism in which misspelling a word creates a rhetorical effect. To emphasize dialect, one might spell dog as "dawg." To emphasize that something is unimportant, we might add -let or -ling at the end of the word, referring to a deity as a "godlet", or a prince as a "princeling." To emphasize the feminine nature of something normally considered masculine, try adding -ette to the end of the word, creating a smurfette or a corvette. To modernize something old, the writer might turn the Greek god Hermes into the Hermenator. Likewise, Austin Powers renders all things shagedelic. The categories following this entry are subdivisions of metaplasmus:

Prosthesis -- adding an extra syllable or letters to the beginning of a word: Shakespeare writes in his sonnets, "All alone, I beweep my outcast state." He could have simply wrote weep, but beweep matches his meter and is more poetic. Too many students are all afrightened by the use of prosthesis. Prosthesis creates a poetic effect, turning a run-of-the-mill word into something novel.

Epenthesis (also called infixation) -- adding an extra syllable or letters in the middle of a word. Shakespeare might write, "A visitating spirit came last night" to highlight the unnatural status of the visit. More prosaically, Ned Flanders from The Simpsons might say, "Gosh-diddly-darn-it, Homer."

Proparalepsis -- adding an extra syllable or letters to the end of a word. For instance, Shakespeare in Hamlet creates the word climature by adding the end of the word temperature to climate (1.1.12). The wizardly windbag Glyndwr (Glendower) proclaims that he "can call spirits from the vasty deep" in 1 Henry IV (3.1.52).

Aphaearesis -- deleting a syllable from the beginning of a word to create a new word. For instance, in King Lear, we hear that, "the king hath cause to plain" (3.1.39). Here, the word complain has lost its first syllable. In Hamlet 2.2.561, Hamlet asks, "Who should 'scape whipping" if every man were treated as he deserved, but the e- in escape has itself cleverly escaped from its position!

Syncope -- deleting a syllable or letter from the middle of a word. For instance, in Cymbeline, Shakespeare writes of how, "Thou thy worldy task hast done, / Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages" (4.2.258). In 2 Henry IV, we hear a flatterer say, "Your lordship, though not clean past your youth, hath yet some smack of age in you, some relish of the saltness of time" (1.2.112). Here, the -i- in saltiness has vanished to create a new word. Syncope is particularly common in poetry, when desperate poets need to get rid of a single syllable to make their meter match in each line.

Apocope -- deleting a syllable or letter from the end of a word. In The Merchant of Venice, one character says, "when I ope my lips let no dog bark," and the last syllable of open falls away into ope before the reader's eyes (1.1.93-94). In Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare proclaims, "If I might in entreaties find success--/ As seld I have the chance--I would desire / My famous cousin to our Grecian tents" (4.5.148). Here the word seldom becomes seld.

To the Winds Throwing Word Order!

Hyperbaton -- a generic term for changing the normal or expected order of words. "One ad does not a survey make." The term comes from the Greek for "overstepping" because one or more words "overstep" their normal position and appear elsewhere. For instance, Milton in Paradise Lost might write, "High on a throne of royal gold . . . Satan exalted sat." In normal, everyday speech, we would expect to find, "High on a throne of royal gold . . . Satan sat exalted." Subtypes of hyperbaton appear below the examples here:

"Arms and the man I sing"--Virgil

"This is the sort of English up with which I will not put."--Variously attributed to Winston Churchill or Mark Twain

"I was in my life alone"--Frost

"Constant you are, but yet a woman"--1 Henry IV, 2.3.113

"Grave danger you are in. Impatient you are." --Yoda, in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones

"From such crooked wood as state which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned." --Kant

"pity this busy monster manunkind not." --e. e. cummings.

Anastrophe -- A type of hyperbaton in which the adjective appears after the noun when we expect to find the adjective before the noun. For example, Shakespeare speaks of "Figures pedantical" (LLL 5.2.407). Faulkner describes "The old bear [. . .] not even a mortal but an anachronism indomitable and invincible out of an old dead time." T. S. Eliot writes of "Time present and time past," and so on.

Hysteron-proteron -- Using anastrophe in a way that creates a catachresis (see under tropes); an impossible ordering on the literal level. For instance, Virgil has the despairing Trojans in the Aeneid cry out in despair as the city falls, "Let us die, and rush into the heart of the fight." Of course, the expected, possible order would be to "rush into the heart of the fight," and then "die." Literally, Virgil's sequence would be impossible unless all the troops died, then rose up as zombies and ran off to fight. In Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare writes, "I can behold no longer / Th'Antoniad, the Egyptian admiral, / With all their sixty, fly and turn the rudder" (3.10.1). We would expect to turn the rudder and then flee or fly, not fly and then turn the rudder!

Hypallage -- Combining two examples of hyperbaton or anastrophe when reversed elements are not grammatically or syntactically parallel. It is easier to give examples than to explain hypallage. Virgil writes, "The smell has brought the well-known breezes" when we would expect, in terms of proper cause-and-effect, to have the breezes bring well-known smells. In Henry V, Shakespeare writes, "Our gayness and our gift are besmirched / With rainy marching in the painful field" (4.3.110), when logically we would expect "with painful marching in the rainy field." Roethke playfully states, "Once upon a tree / I came across a time." In each example, not just one hyperbaton appears, but two when the two words switch places with the two spots where we expect to find them. The result often overlaps with hysteron-proteron, in that it creates a catachresis (See under tropes).

Tsmesis -- intentionally breaking a word into two parts for emphasis. Goldwyn once wrote, "I have but two words to say to your request: Im Possible." Milton writes, "Which way soever man refer to it." In one text of William Wordsworth's "The Tables Turned," we learn that "Our meddling intellect / Mis shapes the beauteous forms of things" (as opposed to misshapes). In English, this rhetorical scheme is fairly rare, since only the compounds of "ever" readily lend themselves to it, but it is much more common in Greek and Latin.

Repeating Yourself:

When Redundancy is not Redundant

Alliteration --repetition of a sound in multiple words: buckets of big blue berries. If we want to be super-technical, alliteration comes in two forms. Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds: many more merry men. If the first letters are the consonants that alliterate, the technique is often called head rhyme. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds: refresh your zest for living. Often assonance can lead to outright rhymes.

Anaphora -- repetition of beginning clauses. For instance, Churchill declared, "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost shall be."

Epistrophe -- repetition of a concluding word or endings: "He's learning fast; are you earning fast?" When the epistrophe focuses on sounds rather than entire words, we normally call it rhyme.

Epanalepsis -- repeating a word from the beginning of a clause at the end of the clause: "Year chases year." Or "Man's inhumanity to man." As Voltaire reminds us, "Common sense is not so common." As Shakespeare chillingly phrases it, "Blood will have blood." Under Biblical lextalionis one might demand "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life."

Anadiplosis -- repeating the last word of a clause at the beginning of the next clause. As Nietzsche said, "Talent is an adornment; an adornment is also a concealment." Extended anadiplosis is called Gradatio. For instance, in The Caine Mutiny the captain declares: "Aboard my ship, excellent performance is standard. Standard performance is sub-standard. Sub-standard performance is not allowed." Biblically speaking, St. Paul claims, "We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope, and hope maketh man not ashamed." On a more mundane level, the character of Yoda states in Star Wars, Episode I: "Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hatred; hatred leads to conflict; conflict leads to suffering." Gradatio creates a rhythmical pattern to carry the reader along the text, even as it establishes a connection between words.

Diacope (also called Epizeuxis or Repetition) -- uninterrupted repetition, or repetition with only one or two words between each repeated phrase. Poe might cry out, "Oh, horror, horror, horror!"

Symploce -- Repeating words at both the beginning and the ending of a phrase: In St. Paul's letters, he seeks symploce to reinforce in the reader the fact that his opponents are no better than he is: "Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they of the seed of Abraham? So am I."

For an excellent website about rhetoric, see The Forest of Rhetoric. Also see the list at Rhetorical Figures and Rhetorical Figures in Sound.


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