The Lovely Vice of Rhetorical Devices


With the Thanksgiving weekend coming to a close (seems like an ordinary Sunday to ME, anyway), let us give thanks for rhetorical devices. Have you ever stopped to think of your favorite? Have you ever wondered which one you use the most? Have you ever realized that these devices are often the lifeblood of what you write and read?

In case you haven’t guessed, I have a special place in my heart (the right aorta, I think it is) for anaphora. In his reference book, A Poet’s Glossary, Edward Hirsch tells us it comes from the Greek for “a carrying up or back” and goes on to define it as “the repetition of the same word or words at the beginning of a series of phrases, lines, or sentences.” He goes on to say, “The words accumulate mysterious power and resonance through repetition.”

Emilia Phillips, writing an article called “Repeat After Me” in Ploughshares’ Week in Review newsletter, finds a bit of science in anaphora’s magic, too. She writes, “In her Poetry Foundation article ‘Adventures in Anaphora,’ poet and creative writing educator Rebecca Hazelton writes, ‘Humans are pattern-seeking animals, pre-tuned to the music of language. We are pleased when we hear patterns in language, perking our ears in recognition, and can be both vexed and delighted when those patterns are broken.’”

Admit it. You love a pattern. You probably picked one out as a gift on a shirt or dress over this endless Black Friday shopping weekend.

Think of that pattern as language. Think of it as sound. Think of it as a refrain you begin to subconsciously hum. Something like “And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep” — a case where the repetition extends beyond the beginning but seems not only reasonable but just right.

So…what rhetorical device are YOU thankful for?


3 thoughts on “The Lovely Vice of Rhetorical Devices

  1. atenni

    I’m thankful for all rhetorical devices, since I love variety. Metaphor, simile, and alliteration would perhaps top my list. But I’m also fond of epizeuxis, because I just now learned it was a thing. I just call it repetition.


  2. Doug

    Ecclesiastes 1:2 KJV: Vanity of Vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
    I don’t know if that was the first use of epizeuxis or if it qualifies, but turkey, turkey, I thank thee turkey for thy sacrifice..


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