10 Figures of Speech Illustrated by Monty Python: Paradiastole, Epanorthosis, Syncatabasis & More

Ah, the ancient art of rhetoric. There’s no escap­ing it. Var­i­ous­ly defined as “the art of argu­men­ta­tion and dis­course” or, by Aris­to­tle in his frag­ment­ed trea­tise, as “the means of per­sua­sion [that] could be found in the mat­ter itself; and then styl­is­tic arrange­ment,” rhetoric is com­pli­cat­ed. Aristotle’s def­i­n­i­tion fur­ther breaks down into three dis­tinct types, and he illus­trates each with lit­er­ary exam­ples. And if you’ve ever picked up a rhetor­i­cal guide—ancient, medieval, or mod­ern—you’ll be famil­iar with the lists of hun­dreds of unpro­nounce­able Greek or Latin terms, each one cor­re­spond­ing to some quirky fig­ure of speech.

Well, as usu­al, the inter­net pro­vides us with an eas­i­er way in the form of the video above of 10 fig­ures of speech “as illus­trat­ed by Mon­ty Python’s Fly­ing Cir­cus,” one of the most lit­er­ate of pop­u­lar arti­facts to ever appear on tele­vi­sion. There’s “para­di­as­tole,” the fan­cy term for euphemism, demon­strat­ed by John Cleese’s over­ly deco­rous news­cast­er. There’s “epanortho­sis,” or “imme­di­ate and emphat­ic self-cor­rec­tion, often fol­low­ing a slip of the tongue,” which Eric Idle over­does in splen­did fash­ion. Every pos­si­ble poet­ic fig­ure or gram­mat­i­cal tic seems to have been named and cat­a­logued by those philo­soph­i­cal­ly resource­ful Greeks and Romans. And it’s like­ly that the Pythons have uti­lized them all. I await a fol­low-up video in lieu of read­ing any more rhetor­i­cal text­books.

via Coudal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Mon­ty Python’s “Sum­ma­rize Proust Com­pe­ti­tion” on the 100th Anniver­sary of Swann’s Way

The Mon­ty Python Phi­los­o­phy Foot­ball Match: The Greeks v. the Ger­mans

Clas­sic Mon­ty Python: Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw Engage in a Hilar­i­ous Bat­tle of Wits

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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