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Long before I became passionate about homonyms and homophones — indeed, before I even knew about the terms — I would sometimes construct what I thought were interesting sentences with a twist.
Essentially, I'd try to use two words in a phrase in one sense, then reverse the words to produce a different sense ... if I could.
One of my very early efforts is this:
You must work at being free, while being free to do your work! (February, 1989)
An even earlier attempt — perhaps not so insightful — was this one:
Money will not rid us of the problem — the problem is to be rid of money. (June, 1982)
Those first attempts — and others not fit to reproduce here — made me fully realize the importance of sense and sound in the use of language. What I didn't know then is this: the phrase reversal that you see above has a specific name, called...
CHIASMUS (pronounced ky-AZ-mus)
I didn't know that until July 2001.
I'm sure you've seen more than one example of chiasmus in your travels. As a rhetorical device, I think there is no equal.
What is even more intriguing is that the man who brought this term to my attention — Dr Mardy Grothe — has a website devoted to the entire topic of chiasmus:
Following my discovery of chiasmus and Mardy Grothe, I got stuck into trying my hand, and created quite a few such quotes, to the extent that I now (2014) have three published volumes:
You can see a sample of those for Volume 1 by clicking here.
You can savor a few from Volume 2 by clicking here.
And, you can rip into more in Volume 3 by clicking here.
Now, seeing as how I can't stop, I keep thinking of more bons mots for your perusal (and amusement, I hope)....
May 24th, 2002:
Don't stop trying to do better, but if you become a nuisance, better try to stop. (Me? I just try to be a better bettor. ;)
June 23rd, 2002:
Spam is not a necessary evil; it's an evil necessary for those who spam! (Why is spam called spam? Well, it's just garbage, there's no meat in it, right!;)
July 14th, 2002:
What with all these corporate investigations,
those involved in the prostitution of business
have no business, evermore, in denouncing
those involved in the business of prostitution.
(Takes one to know one now, don't it? ;)
August 11th, 2002:
No ... you can't be blamed for your parents, but your parents can be blamed for you ... no? (And in more ways than one, too. ;)
September 1st, 2002:
Should some politicians think there are no alternatives to war left, eventually they may be left in a war with no alternatives. (Fortunately, every so often, we can elect alternative politicians, hmmm?)
October 27th, 2002:
Good judges like to keep lawyers in line, while lawyers like to keep a line on good judges. (Heck, I'd just like to get a line on anything good.)
November 23rd, 2002:
Would-be writer's musings: "Well, I can get some ideas for a novel, but I can't get any novel ideas!" (So, I shouldn't make book on a novel until it's a novel book, huh?)
December 15th, 2002:
In the shower, he thinks he's "Singing In The Rain", but she'd like to just rein in the singing.... (Well, now, then, there ... maybe she should just rain on the singing?)
Remember also, homonyms and homophones form the backbone of chiasmus...
So, to get you going with words that sound the same as each other ... well, you can get those right here, with Roger’s Reference!
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