Contrapuntal phrases

Posted by ESC on April 25, 2000

This is from Safire's New Political Dictionary by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993): "contrapuntal phrase -- a phrase-making technique that uses a repeated rhythm with an inversion or substitution of words for emphasis; rhetorical antithesis. Good speechwriters reach for contrapuntal phrases. 'We have fought side by side to make America free,' wrote Alexander Hamilton; 'let us hand in hand struggle to make her happy.' Gilbert Highet pointed out in an analysis of the Gettysburg Address that Lincoln was especially fond of antithesis: 'The world will little note nor long remember what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here.'

This contrapuntal description of Harry Truman has been attributed to Speaker Sam Rayburn: 'Right on all the big things, wrong on most of the little ones.'..."