Elements of Eloquence Single Line Challenge: Chapter 4, The Merism
The merism, Forsyth explains, looks a lot like antithesis at first glance, because it may contain a pair of opposites. However, the point here is that the pair gestures at the whole by naming two or three representative parts.
“Night and Day”
“The long and the short and the tall”
“Ladies and gentlemen”
‘In sickness and in health”
These examples form bookends. That being the case, they suggest, imply, or rhetorically gesture at everything in between.
“Coffee and Tea” could be a merism for “hot drinks” if you use it that way. For instance, “Nights were getting cold, and we abandoned our habitual ice waters and chilled wine for hot coffee and tea.” Realistically, we know perfectly well they might sometimes have enjoyed hot chocolate or cider as well. But is the writer obligated to name every single hot drink they enjoyed that winter? No, of course not! He has the merism to help him keep things snappy.
Of course he may want to list it all, just for texture and effect. Later on, we’ll have a chapter about how that kind of list is a rhetorical device in itself!
To get a fuller picture of the merism, check out our book, Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth!
The challenge here is to write a whole line using a merism.
It might turn out to be an antithesis as well, but that’s as may be.
Mark Forsyth’s Book, Elements of Eloquence