All The More Reason

Without reason no man, but without man no reason?
September 18, 2006, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

If ever asked to give a public speech where some serious head nodding and hmmm hmmmmms are wished from the crowd, then one could do much worse than to use the antimetabole. This rhetorical manoeuver is well recognised when used, although I would bet most individuals would not readily identify it as a formula all its own. It consists of reversing the main ideas and often to contrary effect. Some famous examples include:

– Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

– The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

What is interesting and so powerful about the antimetabole is how easily one can invent new ones (although no doubt already existing one google search away), and yet how timeless they can sound. (at least to my ears)

– I thought I was going to teach my child, and she ended up teaching me.

– If you smile a lot, then you’ll have a lot to smile about.

– Share with no one, and there shall be no one to share with.

– We shouldn’t be worried about jihadists as much as jihadists should be worried about us.

Jonathan Smith


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[…] previous sentence might be arguably a version of antimetabole. I am such a fan of antimetabole that I’ve mentioned it before on this very blog. There is power in repetition and redundancy. For example, we do have two eyes just in case one […]

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