December 16, 2019

Rhetorical Device of the Month: Anastrophe

Rhetorical Devices , Just For Fun , The Buckley Experience

Even when we’re not aware of it, we’re using many of the same rhetorical techniques Aristotle, Cicero, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other greats have employed in public speaking. Each month, The Buckley School's resident students of classical rhetoric explain a rhetorical device and show us how it’s being used for good and for evil.

"Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer."

– Winston Churchill...or Yoda?



If you have Baby Yoda fever, this is the rhetorical device for you.

Yes, Lord Byron and Winston Churchill employed it first, in a galaxy not that far away. But no one has done more for anastrophe than the wise little character with the pointy ears:

"Ready are you? What know you of ready?"

"Powerful you have become. The dark side I sense in you."

"Through the Force, things you will see."

"Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future."

Pronounced uh-NAA-struh-fee (or remember it sounds like catastrophe), the term comes from the Greek for "turning upside down." But if you aren't a character in a George Lucas blockbuster, would you ever choose to use this device?

You might.

Anastrophe works, because it reverses the expected word order and puts emphasis on a lead-off word or phrase that would typically come last.

Compare "The future is always in motion" to "Always in motion is the future." The anastrophic version definitely puts emphasis on "always in motion."

Inverting word order also forces you to slow down and contemplate the statement, no matter how simple it might be.

The secret that must be to Yoda's seeming profound. 

Speakers and writers have also used the device:


"Talent, Mr. Micawber has; capital, Mr. Micawber has not." 

-From David Copperfield by Charles Dickens


Corie Bratter (Jane Fonda): Six days does not a week make.
Paul Bratter (Robert Redford): What does that mean?
Corie Bratter (Jane Fonda): I don't know!

-From the movie Barefoot in the Park


And to answer the burning question, here it is:

"Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer."

-From a speech delivered by Winston Churchill in London in 1914


Learn more 

More about anastrophe you can read by clicking on this link.

Discover another of Yoda's favorite rhetorical devices here.

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