Rhetorical Devices: Epizeuxis

This post is part of a series on rhetorical devices. For other posts in the series, please click this link. For a comprehensive, step-by-step overview of how to write a speech outline, please see this post.

Device: Epizeuxis

Origin: From the Greek ἐπιζευγνυμή (epizeugnumi), meaning “to join together” or “to fasten together”.

In plain English: Repetition of the same word or words in immediate succession, usually with great vehemence or emotion.

Effect:

    • Less subtle or refined than either anaphora or epistrophe, epizeuxis hits the audience like a battering ram.
    • Forceful repetition makes a strong impact.

Notes:

    • Epizeuxis should be used sparingly in a speech. (The quote below by Taylor Mali, which runs counter to this advice, is from a poem, not a speech.)
    • Because it is so noticeable, its effectiveness usually diminishes with repeated use. Thus it should be saved for a key moment(s) in a speech.
    • Epizeuxis is frequently used to express strong opposition to an idea or person.

Examples:

“Isn’t extraordinary that the Prime Minister of our country can’t even urge his Party to support his own position?! Yeah. Weak! Weak! Weak!

— Tony Blair, British House of Commons, 30 January 1997

———

“The consequences of global climate change are so pressing that it doesn’t matter who was responsible for the past. What matters is who is answerable for the future. And that means all of us. The rich nations and the poor nations have different responsibilities, but one responsibility we all have, and that is action. Action, action, action! The current stalemate between the developed and the developing worlds must be broken. It is time to came together in a new international agreement that can be embraced by rich and poor nations alike.”

— Arnold Schwarzenegger, United Nations General Assembly, 24 September 2007

———

“You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder. 
I make them question. 
I make them criticize. 
I make them apologize and mean it. 
I make them write, write, write. 
And then I make them read. 
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful 
over and over and over again until they will never misspell 
either one of those words again.”

— Taylor Mali, New York City, Urban Poetry Slam, October 2007

———

“And then they said they didn’t like the way I looked. … So, they sent me to a salon where they gave me a perm, and after a few days all my hair fell out and I had to shave my head. And then they really didn’t like the way I looked, ’cause now I am black and bald and sitting on TV. Not a pretty picture. But even worse than being bald, I really hated, hated, hated being sent to report on other people’s tragedies as a part of my daily duty. Knowing that I was just expected to observe, when everything in my instinct told me that I should be doing something. I should be lending a hand.”

— Oprah Winfrey, Stanford University Commencement Address, 15 June 2008

———

“And we must build effective coalitions capable of confronting dangerous regimes like Iran and North Korea. It’s time for more than just tough talk. Just like you — probably just so tired of hearing the talk, talk, talk. Tired of hearing the talk.”

— Sarah Palin, Nashville, Tennessee, 6 February 2010

———

And just for fun:

Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!

— Monty Python, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, 15 December 1970

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