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Issue Date: November 16, 2003
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WHERE ON THE WEB

Speech central

Where to revisit the classics.


President Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address 140 years ago Wednesday.

In a 1952 speech defending his integrity, Richard Nixon invoked his dog. Can you name that famous pooch? If not, a visit to AmericanRhetoric.com may be in order. The site is a repository of audio and text of 200 speeches, and an index of over 5,000 more. There are also 200 short audio clips illustrating rhetorical devices. Click on "Simile," for example, and you can hear a scene from Seinfeld in which Kramer tells Jerry, "You're like Switzerland."

Similes are easy, but have you ever heard of an epizeuxis? It's the repetition of a word for emphasis, such as when Gone With the Wind's Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) asks, "Rhett, Rhett, Rhett! If you go, where shall I go?"

American Rhetoric began in 2001 as a single page at the Web site of the University of Texas at Tyler, where founder Michael E. Eidenmuller teaches communications. Now a site of its own, it's visited by about 5,000 people a day, Eidenmuller estimates. The oration they go to most often is Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. Eidenmuller has trouble naming his own favorite, although the Gettysburg Address comes to mind.

Eidenmuller recently added a movie section where you can hear and read dialogue such as Tom Cruise warning, "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you," in "Top Gun," and Michael Douglas extolling the virtues of greed in "Wall Street."

Other places to read or hear oratory include HistoryChannel.com/speeches and Gifts of Speech (gos.sbc.edu), which features women only.

Oh, and Nixon's dog? Checkers.

-- Paul Bond



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