Rhetoric and Aural Devices


Alliteration is a literary or rhetorical stylistic devices that consists of repeating the same consonant sound at the beginning of two or more words in close succession. An example is the Mother Goose tongue twister: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers…” used typically to emphasis on specific imagery or phrase.


Repetition of the last word of a preceding clause to crate a flowing sense of one idea phasing into another; emphasizing on key points and key words. For example in Lolita by Nabokov, he states “What I present here is what I remember of the litter, and what I remember of the letter verbatim…” Another example is from the graphic novel V for Vendetta, when Sutler says “Strength through unity, unity through faith.” A third example can be found in the line “A general who became a slave; the slave who became a gladiator, the gladiator who defied an emperor” from the movie by Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.


An idea or characterization that are the direct opposite of one another. Relationships such as that between Aslan and the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia; another example would be Dumbledore and Voldemort; or Gandalf and Sauron in Lord of the Rings.


A figure of speech where the speaker challenges the definition of a word to develop their argument. Examples of this is found in Shakespeare Richard II: For you have but mistook me all this while. / I live with bread like you, feel want, / Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus, / How can you say to me I am a king? Another example would be “Peace? Peace? What is peace when missiles fly over Palestine like so much swarms of carrion and children lie broken in the open streets? Your peace is no peace, I spit on your peace.” – Protest March report BBC News.


A rhetorical figure of speech when a speaker deliberately breaks off and directs speech to an imaginary character or abstract idea. In high prose and poetry, this is typically addressed to a God or a muse, for a speech, this is typically addressed to a concept, such as freedom, peace, or equality. Examples of this can be found Keats: “To what green altar, O mysterious priest, / Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, / And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?” Another example would be “Alas poor Yorick…” in Hamlet.


A form of alliteration that focuses primarily on stylistic form such as Epics or Poetry. It is the repetition of the same consonant two or more times in short succession. It can also be repetitive plosive alliteration such as “belted black and blue” the ‘bl’ sound creating an almost onomatopoeic effect.


The stopping of a line mid sentence or clause. It is used to produce a sense of doubt, through or reflection in the tone of the speaker. Examples of enjambment used are found in Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock

On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore
Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore.

Here enjambment is used to create a sense of doubt or confusion. The first line is a clear reference to the highly sexualized imagery of a woman’s breast, while the second line suggests that both Jews and Infidels would kiss the cross. What the line as a whole is suggesting through its pause however, is that a man of any religion would kiss a cross if it was hung over the “white breast” of a woman – both satirical and depreciative of the superficiality of religion and the temptations of sin.


A rhetorical device where repetition of a sequence of words at beginning of a clause draw emphasis to the ideas present. Famous examples of the use of this device are found in William Blake’s Tyger; What the hammer? What the Chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? What dead grasp? Or the famous speech by Winston Churchill – We shall not fail, we shall go on to the end, we shall fight… we shall…


Euphony literally means Voice – Sound in Greek. It is the study of the pleasantness of certain sounds in poetry. Typically these sounds are created through alliteration, assonance, and rhyme. It is the basis of poetry. Typically when a poem or phrase in a book has a wonderful flux of alliterative or rhyming quality – it is viable to say that the euphonic effect of the text has created or draw emphasis to a particular imagery or phrase. The opposite to Euphony is Cacophony – meaning noisy or unpleasant voice. It is used to enhance descriptions of ugly or violent imagery.


A phrase used in rhetorics that creates a jarring effect of contradiction, often contained in brackets. Example of such are “We shall go, broken we may be and desperate we may seem, we shall yet go on.” or “Please John! You cannot do this! Come to me John, just come back to me!” The device is typically used to create a pause, as though the speaking is giving a moment of thought or doubt to their statement.

Pun (Verbal)

A form of Word Play where the ambiguity of a statement is expressed though a manner of homonyms – creating humour, rhetoric effect, or unintended meaning. For example the phrase “Religion and its prophets and tax free” or “Atheism is a non-prophet organization”. Other examples include “Don’t die for a deadline” and “Drink Drunk the difference is U” from the RTA website.


Repetition of an S, Th, or Sh. A series of “S” sounds that in literature often string together to form an onomatopoeic effect such as the hissing of a snake, the slithering of something slimy (note the sibilance) or a lingering sensation crated by phonic and thematic diction. Eg: The silken silence of the night slipped through the recesses of the synagogue.


A rhetorical device where the speaker poses a question that draws together their bond with the audience. Typically using a pre-existing context. Political speeches such as “My people of America – do you think the time has come? Time has come for change, to change for the better…” Or in Julius Caesar, when Antony decries Brutus by appealing to the Plebeians: “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” “Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? / When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept / I thrice presented him a kingly crown, / Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?”


A rhetorical question of doubt proposed to oneself to increase the validity of ones arguments. One example could be “Ladies and Gentleman… I am but a man, a mortal, a down to earth born and bred man of the soil… but even I know, that our planet is in peril…” Another example would be “My fellow Americans… I stand before you today humbled, humbled by the sheer effort and great enterprise that you have entrusted to me…” – Presidential speeches.


The use of deliberate old or out of date modes of speech, jargon or slang to create an effect of either appearing out of date or recreating an ancient setting. Commons examples are found in wedding vowels where archaisms add a sense of formality and sanctity Eg: “With this ring I wed thee, blessed for life, in health or ill, for richer or poorer…” Other example could be used as mockery or satire: “I cannot believe that Senator McLean used the word ‘strumpet’ he is a man who aims to degrade women and bring the word ‘harlot’ back into the modern vernacular.”


A term used as substitution with an agreeable or less offensive expression in place of one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the receive. For example slang speak that are derogatory to women are offensive. A well endowed woman could be described using euphemism as been “stacked” or “curvaceous”. Politically sensitive topics such as disabled people would be described as “challenged” or “needing assistance”. Other examples include politically correct but useless changes such as changing “shell shock” to “Post traumatic stress disorder.”


A form of understatement used in rhetorics for the effect of sarcasm or expressing an emphasis on a specific logical juncture. Typically this is expressed by using a double negative. For example, one may states that a girl is “not unattractive” to express the mundane nature of her physique. Colloquial expressions such as “I would never be so unkind to  not give money to the poor” are another example.


A word that is suggestive or imitates the sound it is describing. Onomatopoeia is both an action word and a sound word; ideal for bridging the gap between visual and aural imagery. Common examples include: Meow, Roar, Bark, Woof. Descriptive uses are as follows: The murmuring of the grumbling thunder cloud as it hangs in the air…

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