Figure of Speech: Paradiastole

My favorite euphemism was born one fine Sunday afternoon when a Jehovah’s Witness came proselytizing at our door. Husband answered, intending to politely explain we were already zealously devoted to the Dark Lord, when the good Witness spotted one of our cats, Bartholomew. When Husband saw the man’s eyes fall onto and then expand at the glorious sight he beheld, he waited, and, after a pause, the good Witness remarked, “My, he is plentiful.”

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Not named after the apostle, but does deserve a feast day.

Paradiastole utilizes euphemisms (you’re welcome for the two-fer FoS, by the way) to transform a negative into a positive, most frequently to recast a bad characteristic as a good one. While all paradiastole is a form of euphemism, all euphemism isn’t paradiastole. With any old euphemism, you’re replacing the offending word with a less harsh word without necessarily modifying the meaning (excusing the fact that all synonyms do carry at least very slight differences in meaning), but with paradiastole specifically, you’re purposely attempting to alter the listener’s perception of a word or concept by stating something is not what they think.

I feel like I probably use paradiastole in casual speech, typically when grasping desperately at some form of comedy.

“Ashley, are you sick? You don’t look so good.”
“Oh no, the red-nosed and eye-bagged look is so in right now. I’m not sick, I’m fashionable.”

or

“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!” – So sayeth all the developers at work.

But while researching this figure of speech, I realized this sounds remarkably like the exact kind of rhetoric that scares me. It’s the kind typically used to maliciously convince people to do things that are not in their own or others’ best interests, and it’s used to mask hatred and xenophobia, giving people an out for their horrendous beliefs.

It allows people to say things like “Donald Trump isn’t racist or a misogynist, he just tells it like it is, he’s bold, and he speaks his mind.” Intolerance rebranded as a virtue.

Of course this use isn’t new, it’s existed as long as language has for sure, but we can look back to Quintillian and his work in 95 A.D. (yes, 2000 years ago, hang with me) for more explanation. In Institutio Oratoria in response to being questioned in a court of law regarding a thing you cannot possibly deny, he states one should:

restate the facts, but not at all in the same way; you must assign different causes, a different state of mind and a different motive for what was done…you must try to elevate the action as much as possible by the words you use: for example, prodigality must be more leniently redescribed as liberality, avarice as carefulness, negligence as simplicity of mind.

So yeah, one of the greatest rhetoricians in history is suggesting you “play dumb” in court, but beyond that he is admitting that paradiastole is not necessarily a genuine use of a synonym or even a reunderstanding of the concept in question. It goes beyond the basest use of rhetoric–to convince–and acknowledges paradiastole can be used essentially to lie.

This FoS isn’t always used maliciously. Sometimes you must convince someone of something that isn’t necessarily true. Or you think you must. I’m sure there are at least a few politicians who, even though they know they are lying, think they’re doing it for the greater good, and an argument can be made that intent is more meaningful than outcome.

Per Aristotle, “whenever one calls oneself wise rather than cunning, or courageous rather than overconfident, or careful rather than parsimonious” that’s paradiastole. And you could say that’s…fibbing, to “euphemize” it.

So when do we lose the actual meaning of the words used to usurp the truth? Just as Obama’s “change” became horrific to conservatives, making America “great” again has become synonymous with a joke for liberals (though I would argue one was true and one is not).

I love that language is always evolving–when a language stops changing and moving, like a shark, it dies–but like any good English major, I fear change in language a bit. I love certain words, and I hate the potential loss of them, especially when losing them hinges on some fucko wanting to kinda pretend to not be a dick. And like how pervasive truthiness is now (Stephen Colbert really called it, man), paradiastole is rendering a major change in communication as well.

So how can you use paradiastole in your writing? Well, do you have a character with a blaring personality disorder?

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Blogmas: Christmas

The day is finally here, and I have to say: I’m excited but more so I am relieved! Blogging every day was fun to do for a month, but not something I would commit to for any longer than that. There were too many days where I posted something that was not at all up to my personal standards, but on the other hand, the requirement to post something was helpful and often inspiring, and I think I ended up with a small handful of posts that I’m incredibly proud of. If nothing else, I know what I’m capable of now, so I can more easily plan this blog for the coming year.

But hey, we made it! Christmas! Woo!

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The cats were very gracious gift-getters.

My day largely orbited around cooking. Rutherford had to be sequestered since he can’t not be on the counter, but since I wasn’t cooking any meat, it didn’t rile up Di or Bart.

I stuck mostly to my menu from the other day.

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I prepped a lot while the potatoes did their first bake in the oven. Lots of chopping and since I don’t do it “right,” my nails suffered for it, sadly. Also, we probably ate a little bit of nail. Ew.
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Making the twice baked potatoes was a lot of fun and crazy tasty. My filling consisted of white cheddar, broccoli, butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, and paprika. Did I mention none of these foods were particularly diet conscious?
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My mushroom parcels didn’t stay together in the oven which was a downer, but totally my fault because I didn’t use an egg to bind them, just butter, but they were tasty! No meat required.
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Here’s our fancy spread, soda in wine glasses and all! That’s a round of brie baked into a puff pastry. It melted all out of it. Wah wah wah…
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And here’s a closeup of the plate!

Just a side note: I only found out today brie isn’t actually vegetarian since it’s usually made with rennet which is gross, but also I had already bought it. I try to avoid adding parmesan to things because it’s made this way as well, but when you eat cheese you just never know. Not that cheese is kind to animals at all, but that’s a different blog and a bigger life change I’m working towards.

Last night for Christmas eve, we visited Anachostic and helped him put out luminaries which was a blast. Of course Husband and I exchanged gifts as well today, and he was very thoughtful and creative, and the cats had a ball in the paper, but Bart’s pike ruined everything because he had to eat the plastic. Then I had a nice little nap (the one I missed yesterday!) and played The Sims Medieval, an almost seven year old game that I only just got yesterday. While I did that I listed to creepy conspiracies on YouTube, and ya know, that made the day just about perfect!

Now I just need to get through two days of work, and then I’ll have five whole days off! So, while I enjoyed Blogmas terribly, I am taking a little time off (probably) so when 2018 rolls around in seven days I’ll be ready…with Vacancy! Happy Christmas! And now, my favorite Christmas song:

 

Questions Only A Cat Can Answer

Why are you so obsessed with the toilet?

Even after the great plunge of two ought seventeen, you still insist on challenging a one-handed me to keep you at bay.

How can you differentiate the toilet from, say, the couch? Both are sat upon, both are read upon. How do you know this seat is special?

Why do you want to lick the edge of the toilet bowl? Just…why?

Do you think that you pitiful whining when the seat cover goes down will actually change my mind? Oh, of course, kitten, let me just leave this up for you. That’s a great idea.

Why don’t you have enough self preservation to NOT jump onto a surface that is sometimes actually a hole?

How is the sound of a urine stream so mesmerizing?

Where do you think the hole goes? Are you convinced we’re keeping something from you? A magical fun-time world that is, for some reason, at the end of tiny tube filled with water that makes horrifying noises?

Is this obsession going to end? Should I enroll you in some sort of 12 step program?

Kitten, are you okay?