Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Aunt Anna

Welcome to my series on Words, Meaning and Language (mostly English). You will find entries under the "Mother Tongue" Flavor.

I find particular glee in knowing the technical names of rhetorical techniques. (Only surpassed by my glee in knowing the technical names of all the symbols on my keyboard. Octothorpe anyone?) Currently pasted to my computer screen is the word "Antanagoge" (pronouced Ant'' an a go' ge).

If you look it up in a dictionary you might find something like this:

A figure which consists in answering the charge of an adversary, by a counter charge.

Only lawyers use that. But, you may have recognized its use by your significant other with this definition:

Not being able to answer the accusation of an adversary, a person returns the charge, by charging his adversary with the same crimes, such as:

Did you do the dishes?

(Dramatic pause) When's the last time YOU did the dishes!

However, more commonly uttered by boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives is its lesser known use of:

Lessening the effect of a negative phrase by following it immediately with a related positive phrase, such as:

I forgot to pick up the groceries, but I did the dishes!
He's always late, but he brings me flowers...

Next time someone lays an "Aunt Anna goes Gee!" on you, point it out for what it is, a rhetorical device specifically calculated to produce sympathy toward the speaker. Or just smirk all-knowingly.

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