I was watching a show and this was said:

I’ve seen this before in fanatical sects. The children are indoctrinated from the time they’re born, force-fed by rod and rote

I know that ‘rote’ is a learning style involving repetition, but ‘by rod and rote’ is unfamiliar to me.


1 Answer 1


"rod" is a metaphor for punishment -- it refers to the practice of striking a child with a stick to punish them for misbehavior (this is mostly eradicated in western countries). It's more commonly found in the aphorism:

Spare the rod, spoil the child

So "by rod and rote" means they're force-fed the sect's doctrines using repetition, and punished severely when they don't follow them.

  • +1. "The children are ... force-fed by rod and rote" invokes an absurdly mixed metaphor and employs a literary vocabulary (and alliteration). A plain English form would be to say "the children are taught by use of fear and repetition.".
    – Steve
    Jul 25, 2021 at 15:42
  • 2
    I tihnk the metaphors do a good job of expressing the speaker's opinion, more than than your prosaic alternative.
    – Barmar
    Jul 25, 2021 at 15:46
  • I'm not criticising the rhetorical value of the original. But whilst I can understand how a person is force-fed (food) by using the rod (because it motivates them to cooperate in consuming the food), I cannot understand how a person would be force-fed by way of rote. It's an unreal metaphor in the Orwellian sense.
    – Steve
    Jul 25, 2021 at 16:43
  • @Steve Think of having the entire class repeatedly reciting oaths, or writing something 100 times on the blackboard. That's force-feeding rote instructions.
    – Barmar
    Jul 25, 2021 at 20:12
  • The contradiction in my mind is that "force-feeding" is clearly a metaphor referring to physical consumption of food. As I say, whilst I can conceive what "force feeding by rod" involves (for example, brandishing or applying the rod until the person consumes food), I'm less clear what "force feeding by rote" involves. And don't get me wrong, I fully and readily understood what the quote meant - I simply assert that the metaphor is mixed and unreal, because "rote" is not in fact a thing or an action that would make sense in the context. You couldn't "force-feed the goose by rote", for example.
    – Steve
    Jul 25, 2021 at 21:58

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