Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 1
Rhetorical tools, writer’s style
The Office is a lampoon of the workplace.
Grey’s Anatomy is a lampoon of the hospital setting.
Harry Potter Puppet Pals is a lampoon of Harry Potter
The movie Spaceballs lampoons the Star Wars movies through parody.
Saturday Night Live skits are examples of lampoon.
The Harvard Lampoon Magazine
“Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink ; Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink."
In Romeo and Juliet, the other characters in the cast think Juliet is dead, but the
audience knows she only took a sleeping potion.
When John Hinckley attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan, all of his shots initially
missed the President; however, a bullet ricocheted off the bullet-proof Presidential
limousine and struck Reagan in the chest. Thus, a vehicle made to protect the President
from gunfire was partially responsible for his being shot
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles in which Oedipus searches to find the murderer of the former
king of Thebes, only to discover that it is himself, which is known to the audience all
My dog, Lucky, got hit by a car.
The man’s arm was cut completely off, but he replied by saying, “It’s just a flesh wound.”
"I have to have this operation. It isn't very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the
brain." (Catcher in the Rye)
Last week my brother fell into a fire. He said it was a bit warm.
Reference to the sun: ‘It’s a bit bright’
‘The desert is sometimes sandy and dry.’
“Houston, we have a problem.”
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 2
Mr. Munk’s improve sessions
“My friend, the declaration of Independence only guarantees the American people the
right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself!”
At a 1912 dinner party, Lady Astor became annoyed at an inebriated Churchill, who was
pontificating on some topic. Reaching the end of her patience, she blurted out, "Winston,
if you were my husband, I'd put poison in your coffee." Churchill famously replied:
"Nancy, if you were my wife, I'd drink it."
After lunching at the Algonquin Hotel one day, the American humorist Robert Benchley
and his companions walked through the lobby and out the front door. Still engaged in
conversation with his friends, Benchley offhandedly said to the uniformed man standing
by the front door, "My good man, would you please get me a taxi?" The man immediately
took offense and replied indignantly, "I'm not a doorman. I happen to be a rear admiral in
the United States Navy." Benchley instantly quipped: "All right then, get me a
In a profession noted for windbags, the 30th U. S. President Calvin Coolidge was a
politician of very few words, well deserving the nickname, "Silent Cal" (he once said, "I've
never been hurt by something I didn't say"). Coolidge's taciturn style frustrated the
many people around him who felt a man of his stature should be more talkative. At a
White House dinner one evening, a female guest sidled up to the President and whispered
in his ear, "You must talk to me, Mr. President. I made a bet today that I could get more
than two words out of you." Coolidge whispered back: "You lose."
I used to be addicted to soap, but I’m clean now.
I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.
Why did the little boy who was part of the wedding party roar as he walked down the
aisle? He was he ring bear.
The carpenter was well-known for nailing his work.
My boss does not tolerate any beards or mustaches. He is a real shave driver.
I'm inclined to be laid back.
Austin Powers is making fun of James Bond movies.
“Scary Movie” (spoof on horror movies)
Weird Al Yankovic
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 3
–Weird Al Yankovic in his song Amish Paradise, a parody of Gangster Paradise.
o “A local boy kicked me in the butt last week
o I just smiled at him and I turned the other cheek
o I really don't care, in fact I wish him well
o 'Cause I'll be laughing my head off when he's burning in hell
o But I ain't never punched a tourist even if he deserved it
o An Amish with a 'tude? You know that's unheard of
o I never wear buttons but I got a cool hat
o And my homies agree I really look good in black, fool.”
They're not mosquitoes, they're Airbuses with identity crises
Yeah, I've always wanted to dig out a trench with a teaspoon while some genius flooded
the thing by bursting a water main.
Of course I want to skinny dip in the freezing water.
“What I lack in decorum, I make up for with an absence of tact.” –Don Williams Jr.
“I love stupid people.”
Mark Twain once said that the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San
Accidently on purpose
Alone in a crowd
If someone says to you "I'm a compulsive liar," do you believe them or not?
You can save money by spending it.
"They have ears but hear not."
"I don't need wings to help me fly..."
"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only
more love." (Mother Teresa)
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 4
Your mama's hair is so short she could stand on her head and her hair wouldn't touch the
ground. . . .
Your father is so low he has to look up to tie his shoes.
“She bought out Mary Kay just to have enough makeup for one day!”
”When she smiles her cheeks fall off.”
“She could pass as a clown at the circus.”
The attackers struck like eagles, crook-clawed, hook-beaked, swooping down from a
mountain ridge to harry smaller birds that skim across the flatland cringing under the
clouds but the eagles plunge in fury, rip their lives out-- The Odyssey
“My love is like a red, red rose.” –Robert Burns
"Life is like an onion: You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep." –Carl
"The rain came down in long knitting needles."
"Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations."
George is a sheep.
You are the wind beneath my wings.
You’re a peach.
"Hope is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul, And sings the tune--without
the words, And never stops at all,
Life is a roller coaster, Sometimes it's bumpy, Sometimes it's smooth, Sometimes it's
jumpy…Then, you come speeding out into a new world.
He is the pointing gun, we are the bullets of his desire.
All the world's a stage and men and women merely players.
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 5
The movie Avatar- 2009
In Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, Dante, symbolizing humankind, is taken by Virgil the
poet on a journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise in order to teach him the nature
of sin and its punishments, and the way to salvation.
George Orwell's "Animal Farm" is an allegorical tale in which farm animals represent
Communist Russia. The pigs symbolize the government; the dogs are the police force; and
the rest of the animals symbolize the working class
The Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel written by William Golding in the post World
War II era. Golding uses the concept of stranding young boys between the ages of 6-12
on an island due to a plane crash as a way of pointing out all the warts and flaws of
“The Boy Who Cried Wolf, a parable included in Aesop's Fables, warns against lying
because of its inevitable consequences.”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed- Matthew 13: 31-32
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed
in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest
among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the
“A vain emperor, who enjoyed wearing all sorts of fancy clothes, is approached by two
con artists who tell him that they will create for him a suit of clothes that is invisible to
stupid or incompetent people. The emperor pays the men to create the clothes, though in
actuality they create nothing at all and only pretend to work on a pair of clothes.
Everyone pretends to admire the clothes for fear of being seen as stupid or incompetent.
The emperor ends up taking off his clothes to try on the pair of invisible clothes, and
ends up parading naked around town. The only person who calls attention to the emperor
being naked is a young boy in the streets.”
The Taste of that first defeat was bitter indeed.
The winter evening settles down
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
The stars on the American flag represent the 50 states.
The Red “A” that was on Hester Prynne’s chest in The Scarlett Letter.
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 6
What time is to a watch, light is to the sun.
“MTV is to music as KFC is to chicken.”
As bald as a baby's backside
Horses are to past societies as computers are to future societies
"If I had not agreed to review this book, I would have stopped after five pages. After
600, I felt as if I were inside a bass drum banged on by a clown."
By extrapolation, they estimated his blood alcohol level to be .15 an hour before he took
the breathalyzer test.
It is not possible to extrapolate from animal experiments to human studies.
Having drawn your graph, extrapolate the data for the next three months.
It is not possible to extrapolate from animal experiments to human studies.
Surveys and polls extrapolate information from a small sampling of people, to make
assumptions about the general population
The sky is gray; I think it will rain today.
You must be hurt because you fell down.
In third grade, you cannot be promoted to fourth grade unless you pass the final exam.
My classmate said she was going back to third grade again. I know she's got o.k. grades,
so inferred that she failed her final exam.
"You claim that animal rights activists can be moral to towards humans -- yet I happen to
know that you divorced your wife."
"Therefore it is perfectly acceptable to kill animals for food. I hope you won't argue
otherwise, given that you're quite happy to wear leather shoes."
"You can't believe Jack when he says the proposed policy would help the economy. He
doesn't even have a job."
"Candidate Jane's proposal about zoning is ridiculous. She was caught cheating on her
taxes in 2003."
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 7
At the very end of one of Mark Twain’s essays, he says “Do not bring your dog”
"The electoral college is an antiquated system, so I think I'll go shopping."
At a murder hearing, the defense attorney brought up a drug charge, but the judge
ruled it as irrelevant to the current charge.
Another example of non sequitur reasoning comes from those who try to justify seeing a
homeopath or some other "alternative" therapist because scientific medicine hasn't
cured what ails them. Again, to justify using homeopathy or acupuncture, one needs
direct evidence that those treatments are effective, not that some other method isn't
"I hear the rain falling outside my window; therefore, the sun is not shining.”
"If you do not buy this type of pet food, you are neglecting your dog.”
"If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean."
"There is no I in TEAM."
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Birds of a feather flock together.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
"The pen is mightier than the sword."
"Good things come in small packages."
"What's good for the goose is good for the gander."
"Actions speak louder than words."
"You can't teach an old dog new tricks."
You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.
Blood is thicker than water.
Boys will be boys.
First come, first served.
“A spark can start a fire that burns the entire prairie”
"A monkey in silk is a monkey no less”
“It's no use crying over spilt milk”
"Time heals all wounds."
Practice makes perfect.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder”
“Out of sight, out of mind.”
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 8
" . . . tell Wind and Fire where to stop," returned Madame; "but don't tell me."
o Madame said to tell the wind and fire to stop, but not to tell her.
Mike said that he was hungry.
She asked me if I were coming to the party tonight with her.
He said that his mother was writing letter.
"It was Jean Shepherd, I believe, who said that after three weeks in chemistry he was
six months behind the class." (Russell Baker, "The Cruelest Month"
Odysseus is the archetype of the individual man, the lone venturer, who against the odds
Oprah has become the archetype for a certain strand of TV; the confessional, self-help
based talk show.
"'Frankenstein' . . . 'Dracula' . . . 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' . . . the archetypes that have
influenced all subsequent horror stories" (New York Times).
The star-crossed lovers - This is the young couple joined by love but unexpectedly parted
by fate. Example: Romeo and Juliet from William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"
The hero, outcast, shrew, underdog, villain, etc.
Bed Bath & Beyond
Becky’s beagle barked and bayed, becoming bothersome for Billy.
Sally sells seashells by the seashore.
The cat clawed her couch.
Hear the mellow wedding bells
And murmuring of innumerable bees
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December, And each separate dying ember
wrought its ghost upon the floor. Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to
borrow From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore - For the rare and
radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore - Nameless here for evermore.
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 9
In the novel Catch-22, one of the characters is trying to get out of service as a military
pilot, and he learns that with a letter from the flight surgeon which states that he is
insane, he will be excused from duty. However, he must approach the flight surgeon for
the letter, and logic suggests that someone who is insane would not be aware of the fact,
so by going to the surgeon, the character would prove that he was, in fact, sane.
One is unlikely to purchase a hydrogen-fueled vehicle without there being a network of
hydrogen stations from which to fill up. However, creating a network of hydrogen
stations is not viable until there are enough hydrogen vehicles to create the demand.
Damned if I do, damned if I don’t
“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member!” -comedian
If there is a rule, no matter what that rule is, there is always an exception to it.
A company won’t give you a loan without having good credit, but you can’t get good credit
without having had a loan.
You need experience in order to get a job, but the only way to get experience is to have a
job in the first place.
If I leave, my parents are going to kill me, but if I don't, my girlfriend will.
An example would be a cop using a sword in modern day
An example would be someone using a rotary phone
if an author was using a typewriter to write a book
a cell phone in the 1800’s is an example
A teenager playing a CD in a movie made today
In Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, which was set in Rome in 44 AD, Cassius says, "The
clock hath stricken three." However, the mechanical clock had not yet been invented.
The jacket is being zipped up.
The dog goes woof.
The bee’s buzzed merrily.
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 10
A prewar dresser drawer pa.
A man, a plan, a canal: Panama.
Step on no pets.
No lemon, no melon
NEVER ODD OR EVEN
DO GEESE SEE GOD?
To act or not to act, that was Maria's dilemma
Sue did not want to endure Eve's curse, so she opted for the epidural
Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed
with a kiss. (From Patrick Henry -- Speech to the Virginia Convention)
Jim may be an all-around good student, but math is his Achilles heel.
The title Black like Me is an allusion to a Langston Hughes poem “Dream Variations.”
I am my brother’s keeper.
The Scrooge Syndrome
We saw her duck.
I know a man with a dog who has fleas
Kids make nutritious snacks
"Leahy Wants FBI to Help Corrupt Iraqi Police Force"
I promise I’ll give you a ring tomorrow.
Mathematical order of Operations: Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally (parentheses,
exponents, multiply, divide, add, subtract).
Musical alphabet: FACE (space notes) and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (line notes).
Spelling: I before E except after C, or when sounding in A as in NEIGHBOR and WEIGH.
T WAN BAC BSC PRC IA ---- TWA NBA CBS CPR CIA
Red sky at night, sailor's delight, red sky in morning, sailors take warning.
You have heard "thirty days hath September, April, June and November", to remember
the number of days in the months.
PEMDAS- Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally
(Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtract)
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 11
COP: Constable On Patrol
SCUBA: Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus
LOL: Laugh Out Loud
Marion Morrison used John Wayne
Mary Ann Evans used the names George Eliot.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens uses the name “Mark Twain”
Buddy Holly’s real name is Charles Hardin Holley
Larry King’s real name is Lawrence Harvey Zeiger
Did you hook up with him?
She said to move the module over two picas.
Clean skin- a person without a police record
In golf, a bag rat also means a caddie.
IMO- In my opinion
I can't seem to scroll on my mouse
BTW -By The Way
Ben Stein is the epitome of a pedantic individual.
Here’s another: ‘some training’, ‘some training sessions’ or ‘some trainings’? The last of
these grates with me, but it’s a fact that ‘trainings’ is coming into common usage around
the world. I even know someone with a language school with 'Trainings' in its name.
“You will think me very pedantic, gentlemen, but holiday though it may be, I have not the
smallest interest in any holiday, except as it celebrates real and not pretended joys.”
She did not realize that opportunity was knocking at her door.
The blizzard swallowed the town.
The flowers begged for water.
Lightning danced across the sky.
The wind whispered softly in the night.
Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered. There was no one there. –
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 12
Greek and Roman Tales and Heroes
Modern Myth (Urban Legend)
A teenage boy drove his date to a dark and deserted Lovers' Lane for a make-out
session. After turning on the radio for mood music, he leaned over and began kissing
A short while later, the music suddenly stopped and an announcer's voice came on,
warning in an urgent tone that a convicted murderer had just escaped from the state
insane asylum — which happened to be located not far from Lovers' Lane — and that
anyone who noticed a strange man lurking about with a hook in place of his right hand
should immediately report his whereabouts to the police.
The girl became frightened and asked to be taken home. The boy, feeling bold, locked
all the doors instead and, assuring his date they would be safe, attempted to kiss her
again. She became frantic and pushed him away, insisting that they leave. Relenting,
the boy peevishly jerked the car into gear and spun its wheels as he pulled out of the
When they arrived at the girl's house she got out of the car, and, reaching to close
the door, began to scream uncontrollably. The boy ran to her side to see what was
wrong and there, dangling from the door handle, was a bloody hook.
Trojan War- The Greeks won by tricking the Trojans. They climbed inside a wooden horse
that was given by them to the Trojans as a gift and at night they all climbed out of the
horse and attacked the Trojans.
Loch Ness Monster
Omniscient point of view
John thought he would be able to cheat Dave. Dave didn't trust John.
"Todd entered the room confidently, not knowing that danger was lurking there.”
Jimmy was walking down the road when he saw a cat. “I wish I had a cat.” He thought.
Beowulf By Anonymous
"Here Captain! dear father!/This arm beneath your head;/It is some dream that on
deck,/You've fallen cold and dead."-"O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman.
Examples of Rhetorical Devices - 13
People moved slowly then. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to
buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb
County.—Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
The skin on her face was as thin and drawn as tight as the skin of onion and her eyes
were gray and sharp like the points of two picks—Flannery O’Connor, "Parker’s back"
It's a slow burg—I spent a couple of weeks there one day.—Carl Sandburg,
The Ant and the Grasshopper
An essay on the way to drink water.
The Bible is didactic because it offers guidance in moral, religious, and ethical matters.
The section of Hamlet in which the Prince contemplates suicide.
o To be, or not to be -- that is the question:
o Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
o The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
o Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
o And by opposing end them. To die -- to sleep --
o No more; and by a sleep to say we end
o The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
o That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
o Devoutly to be wish'd. To die -- to sleep