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Rhetorically speaking…
Speechwriters Blog on Speechwriting

The Rhetoric of the Nursery

Every now and then, I take my baby daughter to Rhyme Time at the local library. Her face fills with joy when she hears songs like ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and ‘Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! We’re going to the moon!’

Rhymes are magical. They make us feel that all is well with the world. And it is that illusion of simplicity that also makes them powerful rhetorical weapons.

Researchers at Lafayette College have proved that people are far more likely to believe a sentence which rhymes than one that doesn’t, even if the underlying proposition is false.

Rhymes can make fallacies appear to be facts. This has been proved many times in the past: in speeches (’if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit’), ad slogans (’a Mars a day helps you work, rest and play’) and even classroom sayings (’i before e except after c’).

Today, the press is reporting another fallacious rhyme: the argument that Cameron still hasn’t ’sealed the deal’ with the electorate. The rhyme makes it sound like a self-evident truth. And it’s been repeated so often it’s accepted as fact.

But what are the facts? That Labour has been scraping support of 23% for the last year. That the Tories are now consistently polling in the mid 40s? That Labour is doing worse now than either the Tories under Major in 97 or Labour under Foot in 83? That, it is now possible to get a whopping 14/1 on Labour winning the election (amazing odds in a two-horse race)?

Some might say Labour was ‘cruising for a bruising’.

Posted by Simon Lancaster on November 11th, 2009 :: Filed under Random
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One Response to “The Rhetoric of the Nursery”

  1. 2taciturn
    January 13th, 2022


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