Single Line Challenge: Elements of Eloquence Chapter 2, Polyptoton

old woman praying
Give us this Day Our Daily Bread

Here we proceed to the second chapter of Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth, and challenge ourselves to write single lines (poetic, prosaic, humorous or sober) using the rhetorical figure of polyptoton.

According to Forsyth, the figure involves using the same word, or a form of the same word, twice in the same expression – but in a different grammatical form. Of course you’re meant to do it wittily – or at least intelligently.

He gives the following examples among others:

  1. Give us this day our daily bread; forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
  2. That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.
  3. But me no buts…

You’ll have to get the book (and please, do! to learn more.

I’ll get us started in the comments below. Remember, the challenges remain open forever, so you can always go back and do the others if you’re coming in late.

The point of this is to challenge ourselves both as readers and writers, so please do get the book (it’s also available on Audible! The chapters are less than five minutes long!) and follow along.

I don’t get paid for this in any form whatsoever. I’m looking for writers of promise and trying to help develop the classical and traditional wisdom of written art. Youngsters are welcome; this could be an excellent homeschool mini-class.

Chapter 1
Chapter 3


  1. This figure naturally lends itself to alliteration as well!

    She lived on lean lobbyist’s luncheons, peddling the dregs of gossip she dredged in the back rows of endless staff meetings.

    What whittling there was he whittled;
    what whistling there was he whistled;
    the workshop was full of him,
    sawdust and melody.

    Nothing is easier than to outrage the outrageous; and the offensive, of all men, are most easily offended.

    This do thusly, and damn the contrarians.

    Toe seeks toe; lip loves lip;
    heaven blooms in the breast when it is breasted;
    good and unspoiled hands like best to be handled.

    Then kneel with her whose knees are bent,
    and stand with her that stands;
    palm press palm; belly join belly;
    let forehead on forehead lean.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Folk Wisdom”

    Stickily, ickily, the slime worm creeps,
    diffusing goo that spreads and seeps.
    Beneath the pane,
    above the sill,
    he slimes along with slimy will,
    he worms along in wormy taunt,
    oozing ooze around his haunt.

    It’s why we keep our wits about,
    the windows caulked, the salt can out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Delightful and funny. Very nice versification, as well.

      I love the repeated vowel sounds in the first two lines. “Diffusing goo” was especially and funnily surprising. So this one counts for both the alliteration chapter and the polyptoton chapter! Nice.

      Your polyptotons are great. I feel there’s an extra layer there with turning “slime” and “worm” into verbs, and then encoring them in adjective form. “Oozing ooze” also calls back to the repeated sounds in the second line.

      Vocabulary: nice use of “haunt.”

      Rhymes: Shakespeare would approve of the appropriate pairings.

      Classic punchy final couplet, too.

      I don’t think I have any criticisms or suggestions. This will be a fun page in the book.


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