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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a figure of speech in which a word is used multiple times, each time with a different meaning

old style cursive handwriting

Rhetorical terms and words for different figures of speech crop up every now and then on the HH feed, and are without exception brilliant words:

Many of the words language experts use to describe tropes like these are based on Greek roots, which are often brought together in quite inventive and memorable ways. Take antanaclasis: it refers to a word being used with two different meanings, like “I can’t wait to wait tables all day” (which no one in the service industry has ever said) or “I can’t wait to bar him from the bar” (which absolutely everyone in the service industry has said). Because of this repetitious, back-and-forth arrangement, the word antanaclasis derives from the Greek word for a reflection.

Likewise chiasmus takes its name from the X-shaped Greek letter chi because it refers to the criss-crossed arrangement of repeated words found in “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.

And elsewhere in the rhetorician’s dictionary we find words like zeugma, which refers to the use of a single word in two different contexts in the same sentence, like “I will take my camera and some photographs”. It derives from the Greek word for an ox’s yoke, in the sense of one word “yoking” its two meanings together in one sentence.

A prodiorthosis is a warning that you’re about to deliver bad news, and essentially means “a pre-apology”. Hendiadys is the emphatic use of two separate words rather than a single word and a qualifying adjective or adverb—like “the rain and the weather spoiled our holiday” rather than “the rainy weather”—and as such literally means “one through two”. And prosopopoeia is a form of personification in which an inanimate object is portrayed as talking:

Brilliantly, it literally means “making a face”.


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