Distinctio: Figure of explication in which an introductory reference to a word's meaning is made (e.g., "by x I mean", "which is to say that", "that is") followed by a further elaboration of that word's meaning; explicit definition of or elaboration upon the meaning or meanings of a particular word or set of words.


Ex: “My new iMac Pro, with 64 GB RAM and 4TB SSD has 11 times as many bytes of electronic memory as the Apple II, and by "Apple II," I mean the total of all electronic memory ever installed in all six million Apple II computers ever made.” -- Bruce Tog Tognazzini, Tweet, 3 January 2018

Further Examples

"Let me walk you through the five procedural errors that occurred in conjunction with that mission [the flying of 12 cruise missiles back to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana] that facilitated this serious and unprecedented incident. As you see here -- if we'll bring up slide 1, please -- on the morning of August 29th, a team of Minot airmen was dispatched to the base Weapons Storage Area to pick up and transport two pylons to a Barksdale B-52 aircraft. For those of you unfamiliar with the term "pylon," for our purposes today, a pylon is a self-contained package of six cruise missiles that can be quickly mounted to the wing of a B-52."

-- U.S. Department of Defense briefing on B-52 munitions and the "Bent Spear" incident, delivered 20 October 2007 by Major General Richard Y. Newton III, USAF

"I've been in football all my life, really, and I want to say this -- that it's a great game, and it's a Spartan type of game. I mean by that it takes Spartan qualities in order to be a part of it, to play it. And I speak of the Spartan qualities of sacrifice and self-denial rather than that other Spartan quality of leaving the weak to die."

-- Vince Lombardi

"'We need a re-moralization of society. And we need it most urgently today because we are approaching a state of demoralization. Two senses of demoralization: the familiar one of the loss of morale -- of contentment and good spirit; and the more serious one of the loss of morality, of moral bearings and convictions."

-- Gertrude Himmelfarb, John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner Address

Nuance Note: The use here forgoes the common introductory reference in favor of a precise bifurcation of a key term's ("demoralization") meaning (i.e., "two senses").



"The great, large achievement of liberalism in the 20th century is the welfare state. And that achievement, today, makes additional liberalism virtually impossible. By 'additional liberalism,' I mean more of the same -- energetic, high-spending, high tax, redistributionist egalitarian government."

-- George F. Will, John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner Address

"There are evolving terrorist threats -- they don't go away. We're now dealing with the emerging cybersecurity threat, and when I say 'emerging' -- it really is here, but we have huge responsibilities under that now, which are somewhat new."

- Janet Napolitano, Press briefing on the impacts of sequestration on DHS, 25 February 2013

"Now, first I should define my terms: 'man' and 'God.' By man, of course, I mean society -- social man...."

-- Timothy Leary, LSD: Methods of Control

"Barbara, we believe that Assad has used chemical weapons several times over the last several years, violated the international law that has prohibited their use since 1925. Syria is a signatory to that international convention. For them to have done this several times recently -- over the last several years is what I mean by 'recently' -- you've got to ask him why he chose now to try it again. I trust he regrets it now, considering the damage done to his air force; but when I say he should think long and hard about it, I'll just let the mission speak for itself on that score."

-- SecDef James Mattis, Pentagon Briefing on Shayrat Airbase Missile Strike

Nuance Note: In some cases, the reference to a term's meaning may be signaled after its elaboration without damage to the figure's core rhetorical function, as exemplified above.

"We must address ourselves to the fact that if we dare end discrimination against women, which means if we dare finally take women seriously as people...."

-- Betty Friedan, Dare We Not Discriminate?

"It was the best of times, it was the wo -- I say, worst of times; and by worst I'm talkin' as ba -- I say, as bad as my aunt Jenny's corn puddin'. That stuff will sink you like a stone."

-- delivered by Foghorn Leghorn for GEICO

Rhetorical Figures in Sound

Online Speech Bank

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American Rhetoric.
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