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Apophasis

 

Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Apophasis

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Apophasis is talking about something without directly mentioning it.

Example

I'm just going .. er.. to the .. um .. little room .. back soon. (going to the toilet)

You know who is doing you know what with you know who else! 

He's not going out with Jane, and not with Susan. But I'm not allowed to say who he is going out with.

Discussion

There are times when it is impolite to mention something or using the word could get you into trouble. Seeking not to embarrass ourselves or others, we thus talk around the forbidden words or subjects.

Sex, bodily function, interpersonal differences, religion and so on are typical of subjects where there are plenty of social taboos and political incorrectness for the unwary to go astray. Those in the know either avoid the topic or talk delicately around it.

Euphemisms are words that are used to replace words we cannot say. The toilet is thus called, the 'John', the 'loo', the 'little room' and so on.

Sometimes we try to describe things by what they are not. Sometimes we may use metaphor.

Sometimes a fairly direct reference may be used, typically mentioning the intial letter, such as 'the f-word'.

Apophasis does not go as far as making no reference, such as the Emperor's nudity in the story of 'The Emperor's New Clothes'.

Classification: Reference

See also

Similarity principle

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