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.

Possible Duplicate:
What is the origin of the phrase “not to mention …”
Is there a name for “I don't mean to…, but” phrases?

Is there a term for the rhetorical device of making a statement by disguising it in the context of saying that you will not in fact make such a statement? I'm thinking of a politician announcing "I will not stoop to calling my opponent an adulterer" and, in effect, doing exactly that.

share|improve this question
    
doublespeak? ie: deliberately phrasing something so that it has the opposite meaning that it appears to have? –  Sahuagin Mar 17 '12 at 19:30
add comment

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, aedia λ, RegDwigнt Mar 18 '12 at 4:51

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

1 Answer

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Apophasis is exactly what you seek. To borrow the definition from Chambers, it means "effectively saying something by stating that you will not mention it."

It is a commonly-used word in theology: a description of God is apophatic when He is described using what He is not.

EDIT (adding another answer after FumbleFingers' comment) - Paralipsis. Once again borrowing Chambers definition, "A rhetorical figure by which one fixes attention on a subject by pretending to neglect it, as in ‘I will not speak of his generosity’, etc." I concur with FF that this is a better fit than Apophasis for OP's question.

share|improve this answer
1  
I remember the example of apophasis when I was studying Latin in high school: Cicero's "I am not going to mention the slaughter of the citizens." Also, this is the mechanism used in some jokes/insults, for example, the Russian insult, "You house burn down and you and your family all perish in the blaze, God forbid!" –  Hexagon Tiling Mar 17 '12 at 20:54
1  
@Hexagon Tiling: I don't know how old you are, but I note that Chambers '83 didn't even list apophasis - just apophatic, which I think is almost always used in the "religious" context. Latest 12th Edition does have it as Shyam says, so I won't downvote the answer, but I don't like it much. The word has too many unwanted connotations, whereas paralipsis has been around with far more exactly this sense for a long time. –  FumbleFingers Mar 17 '12 at 23:18
1  
@FumbleFingers: You're right. I was referring to the concept, not the term. What I remember from my Latin study guide is something like "praeterito paralipsis: emphasizing something by the pretence of omitting it". You win the Sherlock Holmes award for today. –  Hexagon Tiling Mar 19 '12 at 9:13
add comment

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