|A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices, Page 6||Robert A.
January 26, 2010
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36. Epithet is an adjective or adjective phrase appropriately qualifying a subject (noun) by naming a key or important characteristic of the subject, as in "laughing happiness," "sneering contempt," "untroubled sleep," "peaceful dawn," and "lifegiving water." Sometimes a metaphorical epithet will be good to use, as in "lazy road," "tired landscape," "smirking billboards," "anxious apple." Aptness and brilliant effectiveness are the key considerations in choosing epithets. Be fresh, seek striking images, pay attention to connotative value.
A transferred epithet is an adjective modifying a noun which it does not normally modify, but which makes figurative sense:
37. Hyperbaton includes several rhetorical devices involving departure from normal word order. One device, a form of inversion, might be called delayed epithet, since the adjective follows the noun. If you want to amplify the adjective, the inversion is very useful:
A similar form of inversion we might call divided epithets. Here two adjectives are separated by the noun they modify, as in Milton's "with wandering steps and slow." Once again, be careful, but go ahead and try it. Some examples:
38. Parenthesis, a final form of hyperbaton, consists of a word, phrase, or whole sentence inserted as an aside in the middle of another sentence:
39. Alliteration is the recurrence of initial consonant sounds. The repetition can be juxtaposed (and then it is usually limited to two words):
The flies buzzing and whizzing around their ears kept them from finishing the experiment at the swamp.
Aside from its everyday use as a logical shorthand, enthymeme finds its greatest use in writing as an instrument for slightly understating yet clearly pointing out some assertion, often in the form of omitted conclusion. By making the reader work out the syllogism for himself, you impress the conclusion upon him, yet in a way gentler than if you spelled it out in so many words:
53. Hypotaxis: using subordination to show the relationship between clauses or phrases (and hence the opposite of parataxis):
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