Apophasis (sometimes also called preterition (from Latin praeteritus, past participle of praeterre, "to go by") or paralepsis (from the Greek, "to leave out" or "leave aside") is the rhetorical technique of asserting and emphasizing something by pretending to pass over, ignore, or deny it.

Apophasis is handy for reminding people of something in a polite way, often announced by a dismissive phrase beginning with "Of course", or "As you know" or "As I'm sure everyone will recall":

  • Of course, I do not need to mention that Cut and Paste Writeups Will Die ...
  • Nothing need be said here about uses of HTML in E2 writeups, such as alignment, type style, making lists ...

This device has many uses which are faintly redolent of evil, and best employed when the speaker is unlikely to be interrupted, as in formal legal arguments or political debate:

  • I will not dwell upon my opponent's alcoholism, his aggressive tendencies, nor his sexual perversions, and instead proceed directly the issues at hand...
  • I do not mean to suggest that the Content Editors are responsible for the declining quality of writeups on E2, merely because they are charged with the task of weeding out the unfit ...
  • "We have never said to the press that Clinton is a philandering, pot-smoking, draft-dodger."
    (Mary Matalin, Bush campaign political director, quoted in the Manchester Guardian during the 1992 U.S. Presidential Campaign)

A*poph"a*sis (#), n. [Gr. denial, fr. to speak out, to deny.] Rhet.

A figure by which a speaker formally declines to take notice of a favorable point, but in such a manner as to produce the effect desired. [For example, see Mark Antony's oration. Shak., Julius Caesar, iii. 2.]

 

© Webster 1913.

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