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In rhetoric, antanaclasis (/æntəˈnækləsɪs/ ant-ə-NAK-lə-sis or /ˌæntænəˈklæsɪs/ ANT-an-ə-KLAS-iss; from the Greek: ἀντανάκλασις, antanáklasis, meaning "reflection",[1] from ἀντί anti, "against", ἀνά ana, "up" and κλάσις klásis "breaking") is the stylistic scheme of repeating a single word or phrase, but with a different meaning.[2] Antanaclasis is a common type of pun, and like other kinds of pun, it is often found in slogans.



  • A well-known example of antanaclasis is seen in William Shakespeare's Henry V. In Act I, scene II, the king has laid claim to the dukedoms of France, and the Dauphin's derisive response is to present him with a cask of "treasure", which turns out to be tennis balls. King Henry is incensed by the insult, and warns that it will have dire consequences.

"...for many a thousand widows
Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands
Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down..."[3]

He uses the word mock to mean both "to taunt" and "to cheat (out of)".[4] The tennis ball insult becomes Henry's justification for his invasion of France, and allows him to absolve himself of responsibility for the suffering he will cause. Supposedly, he is not to blame—it is allegedly the Dauphin's mock (or "jest") that will cheat women out of their husbands, etc.[5]
  • In Act V of Henry V, Pistol decides to flee to England and become a cutpurse: "To England will I steal, and there I'll steal".[6]
  • Shakespeare also employed antanaclasis in Hamlet, when Ophelia tells her father, Polonius, that Hamlet has been making her "many tenders of his affection". Polonius replies by first advising her not to take "these tenders for true pay", then to "tender yourself more'll tender me a fool".[7]
  • In Act V of Hamlet, Hamlet is in the graveyard, speculating on the possible former identities of the remains being removed from the grave: "This fellow might be in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt?"[8] In this instance, fine is used in four separate ways and recovery used in two.
  • In the climactic scene of Othello, the eponymous Othello enters Desdemona's chamber while she sleeps, intending to murder her. He mutters in a soliloquy: "put out the light, then put out the light",[9] meaning that first he will quench the candle, and then end the life of Desdemona.
  • In Twelfth Night, Feste puts on a clergyman's gown and remarks: "I will dissemble myself in't; and I would I were the first that ever dissembled in such a gown".[10] The meaning of dissemble changes from "disguise" to "act hypocritically".[11]
  • In Love's Labor's Lost (Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 79-81), Berowne says: "Light seeking light, doth light of light beguile. So, ere you find where light in darkness lies, Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes", meaning "the intellect seeking wisdom cheats eyesight out of daylight " [12] or "too much study can make you go blind" [13].


  • "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana" is an example of a garden path sentence – the first half of the sentence misleads the reader into parsing the second half incorrectly. The exact origin of the phrase is unknown, but differing versions of it have appeared in print since the 1960s.
  • Benjamin Franklin, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, is reported to have said: "We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately".[14] However, the phrase has also been attributed to Richard Penn in Alexander Graydon's Memoirs of a Life,[15] and appeared in Frederic Reynolds' play Life, first published in 1801.[16]
  • In an essay entitled "The Literati of New York City", Edgar Allan Poe wrote of George B. Cheever: "He is much better known, however, as the editor of The Commonplace Book of American Poetry, a work which has at least the merit of not belying its title, and is exceedingly commonplace".[17][18]
  • The American football coach Vince Lombardi once told his team: "If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired, with enthusiasm".[citation needed]
  • The song "Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder features the line: "Just because a record has a groove / Don't make it in the groove".
  • The type of joke known as the Russian reversal is built around this type of wordplay; an example is "In America, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, Party always find you!"
  • The song "A Sight for Sore Eyes" by Tom Waits includes the lyric: "Hey Barkeep, what's keeping you? Keep pouring drinks".
  • The song "2541" by Grant Hart has the bridge: "Everything is over, everything is done, everything's in boxes at 2541".
  • A line in the motion picture Saturday Night Fever (1978) states, "There's ways of killing yourself without killing yourself."


  • Pall Mall cigarettes were once advertised as "the long cigarette that's long on flavor".
  • Charlie the Tuna was the mascot of Star-Kist Tuna from 1961 to 1989. In television adverts, he would repeatedly attempt to be caught by Star-Kist fishermen, believing himself to be the ideal tuna, on account of his good fashion sense. This gave rise to the slogan: "Sorry, Charlie. Star-Kist doesn't want tunas with good taste—Star-Kist wants tunas that taste good."
  • The Washington Post often uses the slogan: "If you don't get it, you don't get it".
  • Some sexual health campaigns targeted at women use the slogan "If it's not on, it's not on" to promote the use of condoms.[19]
  • Hairdresser Vidal Sassoon promoted his brand with the slogan: "If you don't look good, we don't look good".[20]
  • The mascot of the Felix brand of cat food is a cat called Felix, resulting in the slogan: "Cats like Felix like Felix".[21]
  • The chain of convenience stores, White Hen Pantry, used the slogan: "When you run out, run out to White Hen."

Latin Literature[edit]

  • The Roman poet Lucretius in De rerum natura Book 3 line 365 observes that we sometimes find ourselves temporarily blinded by bright objects because "lumina luminibus quia nobis praepediuntur" (because our eyes are impeded by the lights), taking advantage of the fact that in Latin the same word can mean both "eye" and "light".

Scholarly study[edit]

Linguistic scholars contrived the sentence "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" as an example to make a particular rhetorical point. The sentence may be improbable, but it is a grammatically correct and semantically logical sentence which could be restated as "Bison from a city in New York State which others of their kind intimidate do the same to still others of their kind". Others scholars have noted that many other such sentences can be created from English words including "police", "smelt", and "people".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Antanaklasis, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus project
  2. ^ Dupriez, Bernard Marie (1991). A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus, A-Z. University of Toronto Press. p. 44. ISBN 9780802068033. 
  3. ^ Shakespeare, William. Henry V. Act I, scene II, lines 284-286.
  4. ^ McEvoy, Sean (2006). Shakespeare: The Basics (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge. p. 192. ISBN 0415362458. 
  5. ^ Paris, Bernard J. (1991). Character as a Subversive Force in Shakespeare: The History and Roman Plays. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 106. ISBN 083863429X. 
  6. ^ Shakespeare, William. Henry V. Act V, scene I, line 79.
  7. ^ Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Act I,scene III, lines 99-110.
  8. ^ Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Act V, scene I, lines 103-108.
  9. ^ Shakespeare, William. Othello. Act V, scene II, line 7.
  10. ^ Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. Act IV, scene II, lines 5-6.
  11. ^ Keller, Stefan Daniel (2004). The Development of Shakespeare's Rhetoric. Tübingen: Francke. p. 72. ISBN 3772083242. 
  12. ^ "Delahoyde, WSU. Love's Labor's Lost". Washington State University. Retrieved Oct 24, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Shmoop. Love's Labor's Lost". Retrieved Oct 24, 2017. 
  14. ^ Sparks, Jared (1840). The Works of Benjamin Franklin, with Notes and a Life of the Author by J. Sparks. Oxford University. p. 408. 
  15. ^ Graydon, Alexander (1811). Memoirs of a Life, Chiefly Passed in Pennsylvania. John Wyeth. p. 116. 
  16. ^ Reynolds, Frederic (1811). "Life". In Mrs. Inchbald. Volume 1: The Will, The Rage, Life, How to Grow Rich, Notoriety. The Modern Theatre: A Collection of Successful Modern Plays. Longmans, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown. p. 176. 
  17. ^ Poe, Edgar Allan (June 1846). "The Literati of New York City - No. II". Godey's Lady's Book. 32: 266–272. 
  18. ^ Zimmerman, Brett (2005). Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric and Style ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. pp. 129–130. ISBN 0773528997. 
  19. ^ Waldby, Catherine (1996). AIDS and the Body Politic: Biomedicine and Sexual Difference (1. publ. ed.). London: Routledge. pp. 10–11. ISBN 041514129X. 
  20. ^ "Vidal Sassoon: pioneer who liberated women from beehives and hot rollers". The Telegraph. 10 May 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
  21. ^ Taylor, David; Nichols, David S. (2010). The Brand Gym: A Practical Workout to Gain and Retain Brand Leadership. John Wiley & Sons. p. 198. ISBN 0470971339. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Corbett, Edward P.J. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. Oxford University Press, New York, 1971.

External links[edit]