What is the rhetorical sentence pattern of the sentence, "Facts are to the scientist what words are for the poet."? I really think it's periodic, but if it's not, can I please have an explanation as to why?

Why I think it's periodic: My understanding is that the noun, "what words are for the poet" is how facts occur to the scientist. To explain further, given my view of the semantics of the sentence, a rephrased sentence would be: To the scientist, facts are what words are for the poet. The definition of a periodic sentence is that the main point is at the end.

My argument is that it is not a balance sentence.


1 Answer 1


The general term is analogy.

The A : B :: C : D format is known as the Aristotelian format:

If you took the SAT test sometime before 2005, you are no doubt familiar with Analogy Questions in the Aristotelian format, SKY : BLUE :: GRASS : _. (Sky is to Blue as Grass is to what?) [tresna, DashingBean]

From Wikipedia:

In ancient Greek the word αναλογια (analogia) originally meant proportionality, in the mathematical sense, and it was indeed sometimes translated to Latin as proportio. From there analogy was understood as identity of relation between any two ordered pairs, whether of mathematical nature or not. Kant's Critique of Judgment held to this notion. Kant argued that there can be exactly the same relation between two completely different objects. The same notion of analogy was used in the US-based SAT tests, that included "analogy questions" in the form "A is to B as C is to what?" For example, "Hand is to palm as foot is to ____?" These questions were usually given in the Aristotelian format:

HAND : PALM : : FOOT : ____

While most competent English speakers will immediately give the right answer to the analogy question (sole), it is more difficult to identify and describe the exact relation that holds both between hand and palm, and between foot and sole[citation needed][original research?]. This relation is not apparent in some lexical definitions of palm and sole, where the former is defined as the inner surface of the hand, and the latter as the underside of the foot. Analogy and abstraction are different cognitive processes, and analogy is often an easier one.

It's important to note that the above analogy is not comparing all the properties between a hand and a foot, but rather comparing the relationship between a hand and its palm to a foot and its sole. While a hand and a foot have many dissimilarities, the analogy is focusing on their similarity in having an inner surface.

lovanda at Wordreference.com adds:

Grammatically A is to B as C is to D and A is to B what C is to D are both correct.

There is a subtlety involved here in that the 'to' in 'facts are to the scientist' carries increased semantic weight. Beyond the 'relates to' sense (eg of 50 : 100) is the 'are, in the arsenal ...' sense (ie 'facts are the bread and butter of the scientist').

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