Monday, 27 August 2007


In rhetoric, litotes is a figure of speech in which a speaker, rather than making a certain claim, denies its opposite; for example, rather than call a person stupid, one might say he's "not the sharpest tool in the shed". Litotes can be used to weaken a statement — "It's bad, but it's O.K." can be seen as self-contradictory, but one can weaken the first part using litotes, producing "It's not good, but it's O.K.", which is a reasonable statement. Conversely, litotes can be used as a form of understatement, strengthening or emphasizing a statement, as in the first example above. The interpretation of litotes thus depends on context, including cultural context.

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