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A respectable amount of rhetoric is in fact a form of abstraction. After all, it is a part the trivium together with grammar and logic. As a consequence, even though the area of application of this ancient art of discourse is language, its main fundamental operations –adiectio (addition), detractio (substraction), transmutatio (transformation) and immutatio (permutation)– are general enough to be applied to pretty much anything.

So what sort of objects other than language can have rhetoric? To put it more concretely, can we replace to word speech in figures of speech by something else? How about figures of cookery? Or figures of sleep, apology, balance, offense, touch, play, murder, sex? Can we fill our lives with figures of actions just like Perec filled his Which Moped with Chrome-plated Handlebars at the Back of the Yard? with figures of speech?

Here are a few suggestions.

Antithesis: Making a lens out of ice to create fire.

Malapropism: Using a flame thrower instead of a fire extinguisher. (Inspired by Dean Young’s Clam Ode.)

Apostrophe: Talking to plants. This is very common actually.

Antanaclasis: My book Music as a Can Opener is full of such examples, like using a washing machine to make yogurt drink.

Euphemism: Covering a hammer with cotton.

Dysphemism: Masturbation with sandpaper.

Erotema: Asking an open problem in a quiz.


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