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This sentence comes from a book that describes Steve Jobs.

Here is the context: (taken from Amazon.com)

In the summer of 1985, when Steve Jobs was stripped of power at the company he cofounded, when his office was moved to a vacant building he called Siberia, he didn't know what to do. He was thirty years old, and he owned more than $100 million worth of Apple stock. He didn't have to work, not for the money, at least, and not for the fame. He had appeared on the cover of Time and had accepted the National Technology Award at the White House. His niche in economic history was already secure as the preeminent popularizer of the personal computer. His mention in American cultural history was certain as well. In an era when commerce was equated with conformity, when industry was seen as the staid and soulless province of balding older men, he was an unprecedented phenom. He was a businessman posing as an idealistic revolutionary, striving for social change. He was a capitalist who appropriated the rhetoric of the commune where he had lived. He was a barefooted chairman of the board who took his girlfriend to Grateful Dead concerts and quoted an entire verse of Bob Dylan lyrics at a shareholders meeting. He was a "young industrialist," as he preferred to call himself, an epithet that sounded delightfully unlikely. He was a pop-culture icon, a media hero, a role model, a sex symbol, and teen heartthrob.

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More context please? –  Thursagen Aug 7 '11 at 21:59
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I think it's a bad usage. Ordinarily if you "appropriate" something you take it away from the rightful owner, but that's nonsense in relation to an intangible such as "rhetoric". The writer is preoccupied with trying to sound snappy and knowledgeable, but the truth is he should have written adopted. –  FumbleFingers Aug 8 '11 at 2:21
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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

To "appropriate rhetoric" is to borrow or use someone else's way of speaking or arguing. In this case, it refers to language you might find in a commune – arguing for cooperation, and the mutually beneficial sharing of labor and resources.

The sentence is intended to show contrast – capitalists don't normally use communal arguments or language. To the contrary, capitalists are seen as the opposite of communists.

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It basically means that he was a capitalist at heart, but he spoke like someone who lived in a commune.

In a commune, everything is shared (think communism), which is the opposite of the ideals of a capitalist. The sentence, as with the others in your example, is supposed to highlight his seemingly contradictory nature.

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Thanks, this definitely helps! –  aprilcolors Aug 10 '11 at 6:13
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