Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Don’t Mention It

Doug from Traverse City commented on the illogical “don’t mention it” as a response to something that has already been mentioned. It joins statements such as, “my bicycle was just stolen, but I really don’t want to talk about it.”

It’s been around for awhile as a rhetorical device, and it even has a name: paralepsis. It brings up what the speaker claims to be avoiding. It draws attention to a point by seeming to pass over it.

"The music, the service at the feast,
The noble gifts for the great and small,
The rich adornment of Theseus's palace . . .
All these things I do not mention now."
(Chaucer, "The Knight's Tale," The Canterbury Tales)

Mark Antony: But here’s a parchment with the seal of Cæsar; 108
I found it in his closet, ’tis his will.
Let but the commons hear this testament—
Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read—
And they would go and kiss dead Cæsar’s wounds, 112
And dip their napkins in his sacred blood,
Yea, beg a hair of him for memory,
And, dying, mention it within their wills,
Bequeathing it as a rich legacy 116
Unto their issue.
Fourth Cit. We’ll hear the will: read it, Mark Antony.
Citizens. The will, the will! we will hear Cæsar’s will.
Ant. Have patience, gentle friends; I must not read it: 120
It is not meet you know how Cæsar lov’d you.
You are not wood, you are not stones, but men;
And, being men, hearing the will of Cæsar,
It will inflame you, it will make you mad. 124
’Tis good you know not that you are his heirs;
For if you should, O! what would come of it.
(Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, III, ii)

“We will not speak of all Queequeg's peculiarities here; how he eschewed coffee and hot rolls, and applied his undivided attention to beefsteaks, done rare.”
(Melville, Moby Dick, "Breakfast")

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