Monthly Archives: September 2017

Find all the Figures

What?

“Ask not what your country can do for you.” Instead, ask what the next line is from President Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address. Most will remember the second part of that familiar sentence: “but what you can do for your country.” It’s memorable because it repeats three words and phrases from the first half, just in inverse order: “you,” “can do,” and “your country.”

The term for this kind of linguistic structure is a rhetorical figure, and the term for this kind of rhetorical figure is antimetabole: a symmetrical (ABC|CBA) arrangement of words and phrases.

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What (Might Have) Happened

“It’s important that we understand what really happened. Because that’s the only way we can stop it from happening again.”

Last year’s election of Donald Trump prompted me to write an open breakup letter to American political coverage. My resolve has eroded steadily over the past 10 months, but it shattered today. This morning I started reading What Happened, Hillary Clinton’s 464-page memoir of the 2016 election, and I finished it in the afternoon. I couldn’t put it down – not because it’s another insider account of public events, but because it’s so much more than a private memoir. (Also, it was my birthday. And I’m on sabbatical. So my inbox could wait.)

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