Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What is a term for powerful, moving words? Rhetoric implies the opposite (“empty” rhetoric).

The nominee’s speech was filled with XXX

share|improve this question
    
I think "The nominee's speech was filled with powerful moving words." works very well. A single word isn't necessarily an improvement. –  neil Aug 10 '12 at 12:46
add comment

7 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Rhetoric most certainly does not imply the opposite of "powerful, moving words"! What implies the opposite, as you yourself note, is the adjective "empty" attached to it.

As the New Oxford American Dictionary defines it:

rhetoric the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, esp. the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.

Note the words "effective" and "persuasive" in that definition. You have to add negative adjectives to the term to make it bad.

As Farnsworth says in the preface to his *Classical English Rhetoric":

Rhetoric is a vast, old, and honorable discipline. It may be defined most broadly and simply as the use of language to persuade or otherwise affect an audience. ... It is certainly possible to write well without rhetorical figures, but most of the best writers and speakers — the ones whose work has stood up the longest — have made important use of them, and figures tend to show up often in utterances that are long remembered.

So I would suggest not only that your premise is wrong, but that the term for powerful, moving words is, in fact, rhetoric. If the word still bothers you, add a positive modifier to it.

The nominee's speech was filled with powerful rhetoric.

share|improve this answer
    
I agree with you, that is the classical definition of rhetoric. However, in contemporary use, the word has acquired a negative connotation, especially as used in my example. "The nominee's speech was filled with rhetoric" implies that he was insincere, that he was spewing hot air. How would I best convey that his speech was genuine and had a profound impact on his audience? –  The English Chicken Mar 10 '11 at 13:48
    
Just read your post again, and adding the positive modifier seems to be the best solution. Thanks! –  The English Chicken Mar 10 '11 at 14:12
    
I agree with @Jen that "rhetoric" on its own carries the "empty" connotation. That is, just saying "his speech was filled with rhetoric" implies that the speech was all form, no content. Adding a modifier such as "powerful" mitigates this somewhat, but only somewhat. –  Marthaª Mar 10 '11 at 17:20
add comment

Emotive? Wouldn't suit every occasion but often has the meaning required.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Lively or vivid to emphasize the more positive aspects of powerful words?

share|improve this answer
add comment

"Demagoguery" could apply, perhaps?

share|improve this answer
add comment

What is a term for powerful, moving words? ... The nominee’s speech was filled with XXX

Why does his speech have to be filled with something?

The obvious construction has the same length as the form you propose but says what you want using the words you used to describe what you wanted.

The nominee’s speech was powerful and moving.

share|improve this answer
    
Good point. My example was simplified, I'm using the desired term in a different (more elaborate) context... –  The English Chicken Mar 10 '11 at 19:37
add comment

Consider adjective spellbinding, which means "engrossing, fascinating, gaining rapt attention." Example: "Her eloquent speech, albeit brief, was spellbinding." Note, eloquence is "artistry and persuasiveness in speech or writing".

share|improve this answer
add comment

I would simply say stirring words.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.