Rhetorical Devices: Symploce

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: Symploce (pronounced sim-plo-see or sim-plo-kee)

Origin: From the Greek συμπλοκήν (simplokeen), meaning “interweaving”.

In plain English: Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses and repetition of another word or phrase at the end of those same sentences or clauses.

Effect:

  • Symploce highlights the contrast between different options or possibilities.
  • It adds a sense of balance that neither anaphora nor epistrophe can do alone.
  • The speaker’s words have rhythm and cadence.

Notes:

  • Symploce is the combination of anaphora and epistrophe.
  • As is the case with anaphora and epistrophe, speakers should be careful not to overuse symploce.

Examples:

“There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.”

— John Kennedy, 26 June 1963

———

“Much of what I say might sound bitter, but it’s the truth. Much of what I say might sound like it’s stirring up trouble, but it’s the truth. Much of what I say might sound like it is hate, but it’s the truth.”

— Malcolm X, Date unknown

———

“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

— Ted Kennedy, Eulogy for Robert Kennedy, 8 June 1968

———

“When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it.”

— Bill Clinton, 23 April 1995

———

“In 1984, we introduced the Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole computer industry. In 2001, we introduced the first iPod, and it didn’t just change the way we all listened to music, it changed the entire music industry.”

— Steve Jobs, 9 January 2007

———

“Together, we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And yes, together we will make America great again.”

— Donald Trump, 20 January 2017

———

“First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

— Popular version of the poem First They Came by Martin Niemöller

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