Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Word of the Day: Litotes

Cup Day, 5 November 2002

Despite every good intention to remain serious and earnest, I can't help slipping into satiric mode occasionally when I post comment's on John Quiggin's blog. Unfortunately this often results in misunderstandings. After my latest slip, in the comments thread on John's post on Heidegger and the Nazis, I resorted to a friend's copy of the Macquarie Dictionary to check out the definition of litotes:

a figure of speech in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary, as in not bad at all.

This surprised me, as I've always understood that a litotes was generally any understatement made for humorous effect - a more or less direct opposite of hyperbole. Still I'm happy to let the Macquarie have the last word on this, and count this discovery as one of today's two big cognitive achievements. The other, of course, is recognising that I need to make more of an effort to treat things seriously when I'm posting comments in other blogs but I suspect this will take a little more time to sink in.

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