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[Synoptic-L] Re: Litotes (was *Ornatus* and the Synoptic Problem)

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  • Eric Eve
    ... I confess my understanding of the meaning of litotes is pretty much in agreement with Richard Anderson s. This is also how the Oxford English Dictionary
    Message 1 of 3 , Dec 5, 2003
      John C. Poirier wrote:

      > Your definition of "litotes" took me by surprise, since I always thought
      > that litotes was deliberate understatement, to accentuate the
      > superlative (e.g., saying "It's a little chilly" when it's really 30
      > below zero). I therefore did a search on "litotes" and found that there
      > are two very different definitions out there (yours and mine). I wonder
      > if one definition is a corruption of the other. (Does anyone on the
      > list happen to know, and [esp.] does anyone know which is correct for
      > ancient Greek rhetoric?)

      I confess my understanding of the meaning of litotes is pretty much in
      agreement with Richard Anderson's. This is also how the Oxford English
      Dictionary understands it:


      " A figure of speech, in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative
      of the contrary; an instance of this.
      Examples of litotes are: ‘A citizen of no mean city’; ‘When no small
      tempest lay on us.’ "

      I'm afraid the (online) OED doesn't even acknowledge your definition!


      Best wishes,

      Eric
      ----------------------------------
      Eric Eve
      Harris Manchester College, Oxford




      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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    • John C. Poirier
      ... That s good enough for me: I stand corrected. Shows you how much I know about technical rhetoric. Now I just have to figure out where I got the wrong
      Message 2 of 3 , Dec 5, 2003
        Eric Eve wrote:

        >This is . . . how the Oxford English Dictionary understands ["litotes"]:
        >
        >
        >" A figure of speech, in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative
        >of the contrary; an instance of this.
        > Examples of litotes are: 'A citizen of no mean city'; 'When no small
        >tempest lay on us.' "
        >
        >I'm afraid the (online) OED doesn't even acknowledge your definition!
        >

        That's good enough for me: I stand corrected. Shows you how much I know
        about technical rhetoric.

        Now I just have to figure out where I got the wrong definition.


        John C. Poirier
        Middletown, Ohio



        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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      • Maluflen@aol.com
        In a message dated 12/5/2003 3:59:35 AM Pacific Standard Time, ... I still think the Poirier understanding of litotes has not a little merit and foundation.
        Message 3 of 3 , Dec 5, 2003
          In a message dated 12/5/2003 3:59:35 AM Pacific Standard Time, eric.eve@... writes:


          I confess my understanding of the meaning of litotes is pretty much in
          agreement with Richard Anderson's. This is also how the Oxford English
          Dictionary understands it:

          "  A figure of speech, in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative
          of the contrary; an instance of this.
            Examples of litotes are: ‘A citizen of no mean city’; ‘When no small
          tempest lay on us.’ "

          I'm afraid the (online) OED doesn't even acknowledge your definition!



          I still think the Poirier understanding of litotes has not a little merit and foundation. The aspect of understatement is not necessarily incompatible with the above definition and I think frequently occurs in the figure, if it is not indeed part of its essence. It is also interesting how much more "natural" and common litotes is in the classical languages than it is in English, such that a translation of a Latin or Greek text will most often not reproduce a litotes in the original. Earlier today I was reading Vatican II's document on ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio, and came across two examples of litotes in a single paragraph, neither of which survives the standard English translation of the conciliar decrees I happen to have in my possession. After speaking of the schisms of Christianity in the earliest times, bemoaned by Paul in 1 Cor, the Council goes on to observe: "But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church...". The phrase beginning "and large communities.." reads in Latin: "et Communitates haud exiguae a plena communione Ecclesiae catholicae seiunctae sunt...". Later in the paragraph, the document speaks of the differences between these communities and the Catholic Church which create many obstacles ... to full communion. The Latin has: "plenae ecclesiasticae communioni opponuntur impedimenta non pauca...".

          Leonard Maluf
          Blessed John XXIII National Seminary
          Weston, MA

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