Last night in his eve of election speech to the Scottish electorate (a vintage performance according to the Guardian), the former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, alluded to a famous line from Macbeth when he said 'Once it's done, it's done', meaning that the result of the election would be permanent, and there would be no going back.

The line in question was Lady Macbeth's remark to her husband, after he had murdered King Duncan 'What's done is done'.

There is a name given to a near quotation of this kind. I don't think it is interpolation. that is slightly different. Can anyone think of the word that is on the tip of my tongue?

  • Something other than paraphrase?
    – bib
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 20:38
  • @bib That's it! Why don't you post it as an answer? Thanks.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 20:39
  • Because I already have...
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 20:42
  • I beat @ErikKowal by 10 seconds because he was prepping a substantive answer.
    – bib
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 20:45

2 Answers 2


It's a paraphrase:


A rewording of something written or spoken by someone else.


In his early years as a teacher he wrote explanatory paraphrases of many of Aristotle's works, setting a pattern of exegesis which continued to be followed throughout the Middle Ages.

He cannot get around that by saying he wrote a paraphrase down on a piece of paper.

The interviews were taped, transcribed, and translated: the texts should be considered as paraphrases.

(Definition and examples from Oxforddictionaries.com)

  • 1
    Well, "paraphrase" suggests that the speaker/writer knows what the original was, and is paraphrasing it for a reason. In this case, it's a misquote. So, "Once it's done, it's done" is not quoting Shakespeare, but misquoting him. (What's interesting about the misquote is that it doesn't even sound like Shaespeare--much too clunky. The correct quote is so much better.) Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 20:46
  • 1
    @MarcRochkind - A misquotation (unintentional or otherwise) is also a paraphrase.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 21:05
  • @MarcRochkind If you are referring to my OP, and Gordon Brown's 'When it's done, it's done' - I don't see how that can be a misquote. Had he quoted Lady Macbeth precisely it would not have made sense in his context. What he was wanting to say was that once the vote was taken, that would be that. There would be no future opportunity to correct it. so he intentionally paraphrased Shakespeare.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 22:10
  • @ErikKowal I don't see how an unintentional misquotation can be termed a paraphrase. It is a misquote.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 22:12
  • @WS2 - If the misquotation conveys the same sense as the text the speaker is attempting to quote, then it is also a paraphrase. If the misquotation diverges so much from the text that it distorts the essence of what was being said, then I would agree that it is merely a misquotation/misquote. I was a little too sweeping in my previous comment.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 5:54

allusion comes to mind:

an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference.

So does paraphrase:

A rewording of something written or spoken by someone else.

This also brings to mind how often the suffix esque can be used to accomplish the same. For example, see the Shermanesque statement.

For clarity, esque means:

(forming adjectives) in the style of; resembling.

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