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Oratorical Devices

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It is useful to be aware of the type of oratorial devices that speakers may use, and when necessary to apply them yourself. The technical term for each technique is, of course only of academic interest, it is the technique itself and the application thereof that is of use to the interpreter. The text below is borrowed from Schott's Original Miscellany and the examples used are from the speeches of Winston Churchill.



One of the greatest orators of the twentieth century, Winston Churchill understood the power of the tropes of classical rhetoric. The table below gives some rhetorical techniques, and provides Churchillian examples.

LITOTES Deliberate understatement for dramatic or comic effect.

Business carried on as usual during alterations on the map of Europe.'

PARADOX A contradictory, but often revealing, logical anomaly.

`... decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift solid far fluidity . . . '

PARONOMASIA Using similar-sounding words or phrases for effect.

'To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war. '

PERIPHRASIS Circuitously elaborate expression.

`. . . it cannot in the opinion of His Majesty's Government be classified as slavery in the extreme acceptance of the word without same risk of terminological inexactitude.'

CATACHRESIS An unexpected image which stretches normal usage.

`a new Dark Age made more sinister ... by the lights of perverted science.'

EPIZE UXI S Emphatic repetition.

`... this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never ...'

EPISTROPHE / ANTISTROPHE Repetition of words at the end of successive phrases.

'... the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace ... '

ANTITHESIS Juxtaposition of contrasting idea, with symmetrical phrasing.

'If we are together nothing is impossible, if we are divided all will fail. '

OXYMORON The juxtaposition of two contradictory words or images.

' iron curtain has descended across the Continent.'

METONYMY Use of a single term or image to represent a wider concept.

`We welcome Russia to her rightful place ... We welcome her flag upon the seas.'

CACOPHONY Employment of harsh phrasing.

'that hideous apparatus of aggression which gashed Holland into ruin and slavery ... '

ANTI METABOLE Reversing the word order of a phrase previously employed.

`This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is , perhaps, the end of the beginnings '

SCESIS ONOMATON Emphatic synonymous repetition.

`Our difficulties and danger will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement '

ASSONANCE & ALLITERATION Repetition of vowel [assonance! and consonant [alliteration] sounds.

'Let it roll Let it roll on All flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant, to broader lands and better days. '

BRACHYLOGIA Abbreviated expression.

'That was our constant fear: one blow after another, terrible losses, frightful dangers. Everything miscarried.'

ANAPHORA Repetition of words or phrases at the start of successive clauses.

'We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender. '


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