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epiplexis

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epiplexis

"Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" (Epiplexis employed by Joseph N. Welch, head counsel for the U.S. Army at the Army-McCarthy Hearings, June 1954)

Definition:

(1) A rhetorical term for asking questions to rebuke or reproach rather than to elicit answers.

(2) More broadly, a form of argument in which a speaker attempts to shame an opponent into adopting a particular point of view.

Adjective: epiplectic.

See also:

Etymology:

From the Greek, "strike at, rebuke"

Examples:

  • "Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"
    (Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy, June 9, 1954)


  • "Have you no shame, coming in as Gandhi and stuffing yourself with Buffalo wings? Why didn't you come as FDR and go around with crazy legs?"
    (George Segal as Jack Gallow in "Halloween, Halloween." Just Shoot Me! 2002)


  • "Stop thinking and end your problems.
    What difference between yes and no?
    What difference between success and failure?
    Must you value what others value, avoid what others avoid?
    How ridiculous!"
    (Tao Te Ching)


  • "--And why do you go to France or Belgium, said Miss Ivors, instead of visiting your own land?
    "--Well, said Gabriel, it’s partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.
    "--And haven’t you your own language to keep in touch with--Irish? asked Miss Ivors."
    (James Joyce, "The Dead")


  • "'Suppose you wake up some morning and find your sister dead? What would you think then?' she asked. 'Suppose those rats cut our veins at night while we sleep? Naw! Nothing like that ever bothers you! All you care about is your own pleasure!'"
    (Richard Wright, Native Son)


  • ""O how little a thing is all the greatness of man, and through how false glasses doth he make shift to multiply it, and magnifie it to himselfe?"
    (John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, 1624)


  • "You think what I do is playing God, but you presume you know what God wants. Do you think that's not playing God?"
    (John Irving, The Cider House Rules, 1985)


  • "Ah, sorry to interrupt you there, Bobbo, but I gotta ask you a quick question. Now, when you were born, nay, spawned by the Dark Prince himself, did that rat bastard forget to give you a hug before he sent you along your way?"
    (Dr. Cox in the television program Scrubs, 2007)


  • "Canst thou with impious obloquy condemn
    The just Decree of God, pronounc't and sworn,
    That to his only Son by right endu'd
    With Regal Scepter, every Soule in Heav'n
    Shall bend the knee, and in that honour due
    Confess him rightful King?"
    (Abdiel addressing Satan in Paradise Lost by John Milton)


  • "Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood?”
    (Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, July 2006)


  • Epiplexis in Shakespeare's Hamlet
    "Have you eyes?
    Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,
    And batten on this moor? Ha! have you eyes?
    You cannot call it love; for at your age The heyday in the blood is tame, it's humble,
    And waits upon the judgment: and what judgment
    Would step from this to this? Sense, sure, you have,
    Else could you not have motion; but sure, that sense
    Is apoplex'd; for madness would not err,
    Nor sense to ecstasy was ne'er so thrall'd
    But it reserved some quantity of choice,
    To serve in such a difference. What devil was't
    That thus hath cozen'd you at hoodman-blind?
    Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
    Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,
    Or but a sickly part of one true sense
    Could not so mope.
    O shame! where is thy blush?"
    (Prince Hamlet addressing his mother, the Queen, in Hamlet by William Shakespeare)
Pronunciation: e-pi-PLEX-is
Also Known As: epitimesis, percontatio
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