Stephen Fry's radio series on the English language returned to Radio 4 yesterday (listen here), and the first topic was rhetoric. Rhetoric gets a bad press these days; it is often used as a synonym of 'spin', usually implies a lack of substance in what is said, and tends to be accompanied by the verbs to spout or to spew, or the adjectives inflammatory or over-heated. In ancient Greece, though, it was regarded as a necessary subject of learning to help people speak and persuasively and to thrash out disagreements in a civilised fashion.
The programme examined three extracts from very different speeches and highlighted the classic features of rhetoric contained in each one. One speech was made by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on the subject of gun control, another was the speech made by Colonel Tim Collins to his soldiers just before the 2003 Iraq war, and the third was the thank-you speech made by Boris Johnson after last year's Olympics. Johnson studied Classics, and one might expect him to know all the tricks of rhetoric, but all three speeches used rhetorical devices.
The three basic rhetorical appeals are via:
ethos: showing your authority to the audience and why they should listen (Boris Johnson did this by making his audience laugh)
pathos: appealing to the audience's emotions (Giffords' "Too many children are dying")
logos: the 'meat' of the speech or content
Other features include:
hypophora: asking a question, them immediately answering it yourself (Boris Johnson: "You did rack up more medals than France, didn't you? Yes")
anaphora: repeating a word, group of words or construction several times (Johnson again: "You brought home rowing. You brought home cycling. You brought home judo")
kairos: a reference to the right or opportune time (Gabrielle Gifford's plea: "You must act" and "The time is now")
ellipsis: omission of words (Colonel Tim Collins: "Our business now is North")
tricolon: saying three things in a series (such as "blood, sweat and tears" or, to give another example from Johnson's speech, "more medals than France, more medals than Germany, more medals than Australia")
That is only the tip of the iceberg as regards rhetorical devices. For much more, see this site.