5

A murdering thief or a thieving murderer.

I have looked up all possible literary devices, and can't seem to find one...

  • 1
    Antimetabole, perhaps. – snailcar Dec 18 '13 at 14:18
  • @snailboat: why perhaps? – Peter Shor Dec 18 '13 at 14:27
  • 1
    @PeterShor Well, I looked it up briefly, saw "in successive clauses", shrugged, and decided that the people who know about things like antimetabole could sort it out. – snailcar Dec 18 '13 at 14:28
  • This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem, as this question keeps getting asked over and over and over again, but each time with a different example phrase. So you can only really search for the answer if you already know the answer... – RegDwigнt Dec 18 '13 at 15:17
11

It is an example of chiasmus, which is

  1. Repetition of ideas in inverted order
  2. Repetition of grammatical structures in inverted order (not to be mistaken with antimetabole, in which identical words are repeated and inverted).

See here or any other reputable source. (One of my favorites, from which the above is drawn, is Silva Rhetoricae.

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