Okay, class. Now that you’ve had an in-depth : ) Introduction to Rhetoric, here’s a quiz:
Which of the following statements represents rhetoric?
1. If elected Queen for Life, I will eliminate all crime, all tackiness, and provide the best education and the most supporting environment that is possibly possible, for all.
2. Honey, please pass the salt.
3. No comment.
4. I’m taking the dog for a walk.
5. How many times do I have to tell you that using deodorant is a good thing?
The first option is naturally an example of highly-refined political rhetoric. Would that all our political candidates spoke so eloquently. Not that we trust them. If you selected option number 1 as an example of rhetoric, you are correct. Bravo.
The second example illustrates a case of subtle rhetoric. The point being that we speak in order to achieve some end, even if it’s merely getting more sodium chloride on our food, which is not necessarily a healthy choice. If you selected option number 2 as an example of rhetoric, you are correct. The teacher is proud of your insight.
The third option is an example of undercover rhetoric. No one ever says “no comment” for nothing. Even saying nothing in response to a ridiculous statement which deserves no response, is a message. The person who says “no comment” definitely has something to say. Perhaps this person agrees with the dictum, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” In any case “no comment,” with or without the glaring look, is an example of powerful rhetoric.
The fourth example is simple rhetoric. It is a statement of clear intention, a simple way to shape the world. By deciding to take the dog for a walk, the person is making a selection, and thereby rejecting other options, such as lying on the sofa scarfing chips while watching reruns of “The Simpsons.” This too, is an example of rhetoric, even if the persuasive element is not obvious.
The last example sounds like parental rhetoric. Even though parents learn early on that offspring filter out most of what they hear from their parental units, the hope burns eternal in the parent’s heart that the progeny will learn from one’s mistakes. As this is blatantly not a random utterance, but one spoken with a goal (an admirable one at that,) it is most definitely an example of rhetoric.
So today’s lesson is that everything you say, you do so for a reason. As such, you too, practice your rhetoric, with varying degrees of success. The deeper cause for reflection is, your words are more powerful than you think. My last rhetorical statement for this post is….
Have a super Tuesday!