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enthymeme

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enthymeme

The Dude's enthymeme: "Does this place look like I'm . . . married? The toilet seat's up, man!" (The Big Lebowski, Universal Studios, 1998)

Definition:

In rhetoric, an informally stated syllogism with an implied premise. Adjective: enthymemic or enthymematic.

In the Rhetoric, Aristotle observes that enthymemes are "the substance of rhetorical persuasion," though he fails to offer a clear definition of the enthymeme.


See also:

Etymology:

From the Greek, "piece of reasoning"

Examples and Observations:

  • "With a name like Smucker's, it has to be good."
    (slogan of Smucker's jams, jellies, and preserves)


  • "In modern times, the enthymeme has come to be regarded as an abbreviated syllogism--that is, an argumentative statement that contains a conclusion and one of the premises, the other premise being implied. A statement like this would be regarded as an enthymeme: 'He must be a socialist because he favors a graduated income-tax.' Here the conclusion (He is a socialist) has been deduced from an expressed premise (He favors a graduated income-tax) and an implied premise (either [a] Anyone who favors a graduated income-tax is a socialist or [b] A socialist is anyone who favors a graduated income-tax)."
    (Edward P.J. Corbett and Robert J. Connors, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, 4th ed. Oxford Univ. Press, 1999)


  • "In that form of enthymeme in which one of the premises is omitted there is a strong tendency to accept the conclusion without scrutinizing the missing premise on which the argument rests. For example, the plebians, swayed by Antony speaking of Caesar, readily take for granted the conclusion he desires:
    Plebian: Mark'd ye his words? He would not take the crown. Therefore 'tis certain he was not ambitious.
    [William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar III.ii]
    They do not question the implicit major premise, A man who refuses a crown is not ambitious. They regard the conclusion as certain."
    (Sister Miriam Joseph, Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language, 1947. Reprinted by Paul Dry Books, 2005)


  • "[M]y parents decide to buy my brothers guns. These are not 'real' guns. They shoot 'BBs,' copper pellets my brothers say will kill birds. Because I am a girl, I do not get a gun."
    (Alice Walker, "Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self." In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens. Harcourt Brace, 1983)


  • "If you have been healed or saved or blessed through TBN and have not contributed . . . you are robbing God and will lose your reward in heaven."
    (Paul Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, quoted by William Lobdell, The Week, Aug. 10, 2007)


  • "One of the Soviet Georgia's senior citizens thought Dannon was an excellent yogurt. She ought to know. She's been eating yogurt for 137 years."
    (1970s television advertisement for Dannon Yogurt)


  • "If it's Borden's, it's got to be good."
    (advertising slogan)


  • "Want him to be more of a man? Try being more of a woman!"
    (advertising slogan for Coty perfume)


  • "In an enthymeme, the speaker builds an argument with one element removed, leading listeners to fill in the missing piece. On May 1, speaking from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush said, 'The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001, and still goes on. . . . With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.' This is classic enthymematic argumentation: We were attacked on Sept. 11, so we went to war against Iraq. The missing piece of the argument--'Saddam was involved in 9/11'--didn't have to be said aloud for those listening to assimilate its message."
    (Paul Waldman, Washington Post, Sep. 2003)


  • The Daisy Commercial
    "In 1964, politics flip-flopped, and the choice became 'Vote Democratic or Die.' One of the most controversial commercials ever made showed a pretty little girl, all innocence, picking petals off a daisy in a field. In a small, sweet voice, she counts the petals as she pulls them off, 'One, two, three . . .' When she gets to ten, the picture is frozen, and a man's grim voice begins to count back down from ten (as in a nuclear blast countdown). At zero, the scene dissolves into a nuclear holocaust. Over the mushrooming cloud President Lyndon Johnson's voice is heard: 'These are the stakes--to make a world in which all God's children can live or go into the dark. We must either love each other or we must die.' Voters got the message: A vote for Johnson's opponent Goldwater is a vote for dead little girls. At last count, partisans of dead little girlhood did not constitute a large percentage of the electorate."
    (Donna Woolfolk Cross, Mediaspeak: How Television Makes Up Your Mind. Coward-McCann, 1983)
Pronunciation: EN-tha-meem
Also Known As: rhetorical syllogism
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