Sunday, September 21, 2008

"hot" rhetoric: antimetabole

Since when are figures of speech hot? Public radio's show On The Media says the antimetabole (pronounced an-tee-meh-TAB-oh-lee) is the hottest figure of speech in this year's election campaign. Or is it just overused? You be the judge. The antimetabole's name may not be familiar to you, but the form surely is. Here are the examples OTM quotes from women speakers in the current campaign:
Sarah Palin: In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are some, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.

Hillary Clinton: In the end, the true test is not the speeches a president delivers. It's whether he delivers on his speeches.
The interview notes a danger for Clinton's use of the form in the above example, as she was criticizing her opponent for fine public speaking...and using an elaborate rhetorical device to do so. Similarly, the interview strikes a cautionary note about overusing antimetabole when it isn't called for. But overall, it helps candidates define what they are and what their opponents aren't, and echoes John F. Kennedy, who loved the form. American Rhetoric's "rhetorical figures in sound" section offers few examples of women using antimetabole but I know you'll be helping to make up for that soon. Go here to listen to the OTM interview; a transcript will be posted in the same place on Monday, September 22.

1 comment:

Mary Fletcher Jones said...

I don't really think it's over-used...yet. I am frankly in awe of anyone who can pull off that kind of verbal gymnastics in front of a microphone and dozens of cameras. I think a candidate can include maybe 1 or 2 of those in a speech...any more than that and they come off "too" polished (read: inaccessible and possibly insincere). I'm not sure the American public wants magnificent orators anymore. They want people who sound like them: who are easily understood. Those candidates come across as more trustworthy. Both Hillary and Palin seem to understand that, and McCain sounds like a regular guy when he talks, but I don't think Obama quite understands how important this is.