Meiosis (figure of speech)
In rhetoric, meiosis is a euphemistic figure of speech that intentionally understates something or implies that it is lesser in significance or size than it really is. Meiosis is the opposite of auxesis, and is often compared to litotes. The term is derived from the Greek μειόω (“to make smaller”, "to diminish").
- Historical examples
- "(Our) peculiar institution", for slavery and its economic ramifications in the American South.
- "The Recent Unpleasantness", used in the 19th century in the southern United States as an idiom to refer to the American Civil War and its aftermath.
- "The Emergency", a term used in the Republic of Ireland for the conflict that the rest of the world called the Second World War.
- In the Hirohito surrender broadcast, the Japanese emperor said that "the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage", only a week after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (The original Classical Japanese: 「戰局必スシモ好轉セス」)
- "The Troubles", a name for decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
- Other examples
- "The Pond", for the Atlantic Ocean ("across the pond"). Similarly, "The Ditch" for the Tasman Sea, between Australia and New Zealand.
- In The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield says "It isn't very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain."
- "Intolerable meiosis!" comments a character in William Golding's Fire Down Below as their ship encounters an iceberg after another character comments, "We are privileged. How many people have seen anything like this?"
- Encarta World English Dictionary (1999)
- The Times English Dictionary (2000)
- OED 1st edition