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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chiasmus December 15, Figures of Speech

You can take the boy
out of the country,
but you can't take the
country out of the boy.
Chiasmus: Literally a "crossing," is one of those words that's easier to give an example of than to define.  An example would be Mae West's, "It's not the men in your life that count, it's the life in your men."  The definition is something like a figure of speech in which the order of two terms in the first part is reversed in the second part."  See what I mean?

Chiasmus is so fun because it can be put to so many rhetorical uses.  It can be stirring as in Kennedy's "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," or Frederick Douglass' "you have seen how a man became a slave, now you will see how a slave became a man."  It can be defiant and curmudgeonly like Robert Frost's, "Keep off each other and keep each other off."  Or plain silly like "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."

The last is not only chiasmus, but metathesis, because specific sounds are transposed instead of whole words.  Another example of combining chiasmus and metathesis is the answer to this riddle:

Q: "What's the difference between a rooster and a lawyer?"
A: "Well, a rooster clucks defiance, and a lawyer..."

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