Fun word of the day: Procatalepsis

Here’s a fun word:  procatalepsis.

It’s a figure of speech whereby someone anticipates an objection at the beginning of a sentence, like this:

I know this sounds weird, but I actually enjoy brussel sprouts.

Why is this interesting?  Because it has a bastardized form, recently highlighted by BuzzFeed:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/10-people-that-exist

That’s the form of

I don’t mean to be racist but [something totally racist].

That particular whopper has been called a few things (but-heads, lying by assertion, false fronts, and wishwashers), but I think of it as following the form of procatalepsis but combining it with the argument by assertion logical fallacy, which says that something is because it is.  (An argument without evidence in other words).

There’s question over whether someone is really lying or just inartful.  I think there’s a slightly different form where there person is lying up front, employing the sarcastic “I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry, but she’s just ugly.

That person is usually not sorry and in fact enjoying the act of criticism.  But there might be something to be said for the person truly not aware of the contradiction.  Both of these are distractions from the more valid form which really does try to anticipate objections and counterargue them in a meaningful way.

I’m sorry, and I don’t mean to sound one sided, but that’s just the way it is.

White House Front

White House Front (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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2 thoughts on “Fun word of the day: Procatalepsis

    • My procatalepsis is acting up. I need to stock up on some enthymeme. (And just when I got my hypotaxis under control!)

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