The best book on tropes ever written–not hyperbole.

20893512This sentence describing a dismal dinner is, says Mark Forsyth, “perhaps the greatest anadiplosis” ever written:

“If the soup had been as warm as the wine, and the wine as old as the fish, and the fish as young as the maid, and the maid as willing as the hostess, it would have been a very good meal.”

The anadiplosis, a figure of speech where the last word in a phrase or sentence becomes the first word in the next, is but one of 39 such rhetorical devices that Forsyth, who blogs as The Inky Fool, wittily describes in “The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase,” released in the USA in October 2014 by Berkley Books. In it he uses ample examples of deft phrasings from Shakespeare, Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Lennon & McCartney and more to explicate all manner of trope.

In it you will learn that syllepsis results from using one word in two incongruous ways, as did Dorothy Parker when commenting on her small apartment: “I’ve barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends.”

And that isocolon employs “two clauses that are grammatically parallel, two sentences that are structurally the same,” as Winston Churchill did in describing Field Marshall Montgomery: “In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable.”

The book is a treasure for writers, public speakers, boulevardiers and anyone who wants to sound smart and witty. As Forsyth posits: “For though we have nothing to say, we can at least say it well.”

To say that his book is not without its uses would be, I learned, an example of litotes, understatement that results from affirming something that denies its opposite.” As when, says Forsyth, Emperor Hirohito announced to his people, after two atomic bombs had been dropped on them, that “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.”

This is a fine book, a great read and a valuable reference.