Alliteration: Figure of emphasis that occurs through the repetition of initial consonant letters (or sounds) in two or more different words across successive sentences, clauses, or phrases. Two kinds may be distinguished: 1) Adjacent alliteration occurs when the second consonant sound follows right after the first -- back-to-back. 2) Non-adjacent alliteration occurs when the consonant sounds are not immediately juxtaposed with each other.


Adjacent Alliteration #1: "I think a need a bigger box."

-- Taco Bell Commercial

Adjacent Alliteration #2: "Metric Math Mistake Muffed Mars Meteorological Mission."

-- Wired

Non-Adjacent Alliteration: "Our Founding Fathers created a system of government of men, not of angels. No one standing in this house today can pass a puritanical test of purity that some are demanding that our elected leaders take."

-- Richard Gephardt, "Life Imitates Farce"

Further Examples 

Everett McGill: Hello...Who's the honcho around here?

Radio Station Honcho: I am. Who're you?

Everett McGill: "Well, sir, I'm Jordan Rivers, and these here are the Soggy Bottom Boys out of Cottonelia, Mississippi -- songs of salvation to salve the soul. Uh, we hear that you pay good money to sing into a can."

-- delivered by George Clooney (from the movie 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

Austin Powers: "Isn't that what being an international man of mystery's all about?"

-- delivered by Mike Myers (from the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery)

  "Was he not unmistakably a little man? A creature of the petty rake-off, pocketed with a petty joke in private and denied with the stainless platitudes in his public utterances."

-- [C.S. Lewis] The Screwtape Letters

"This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in the time of certain danger. They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different, and difficult places They are men and women -- white, black, and brown -- of all faiths and all stations -- all Americans, serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life. In today's wars, there's not always a simple ceremony that signals our troops' success -- no surrender papers to be signed, or capital to be claimed...."

-- Barack Obama, Fort Hood Memorial Service Speech

"With a determination for an execution consistent with our record, squaring our performances with our promises, we will proceed to the fulfillment of the Party's mission. God helping, it shall be accomplished."

-- Will H. Hays. On Citizenship

"Just like every other foaming rabid psycho in this city with a foolproof plan, you've forgotten you're facing the single finest fighting force ever assembled."

-- delivered by Dan Aykroyd (from the movie Dragnet)

Note: Contains both adjacent and non-adjacent forms of alliteration.

"Now in the third year of his Administration we find more of our people unemployed than at any other time. We find our houses empty and our people hungry; many of them half-clothed and many of them not clothed at all. We find not only the people going further into debt, but that the United States is going further into debt. The condition has become deplorable. Instead of his promises, the only remedy that Mr. Roosevelt has described is to borrow more money if he can, and to go further into debt. And with it all there stalks a slimy specter of want, hunger, destitution, and pestilence."

-- Huey P. Long, St. Vitus Dance Government Radio Address

"Somewhere at this very moment a child is being born in America. Let it be our cause to give that child a happy home, a healthy family, and a hopeful future."

-- Bill Clinton, 1992 Democratic National Convention Acceptance Address

Note: Contains both adjacent and non-adjacent forms of alliteration.

"In the United States today we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism."

-- delivered by Spiro Agnew and written by William Safire, Address at San Diego, 11 September 1970

"Our nation itself is testimony to the love our veterans have had for it and for us. Our liberties, our values -- all for which America stands -- is safe today because brave men and women have been ready to face the fire at freedom's front. And we thank God for them."

-- Ronald Reagan, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Address

Note: Contains both adjacent and non-adjacent forms of alliteration.

"Step forward, Tin Man. You dare to come to me for a heart, do you? You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk! And you, Scarecrow, have the effrontery to ask for a brain. You billowing bale of bovine fodder!"

-- delivered by Frank "Wizard of Oz" Morgan (from the movie The Wizard of Oz)

Note: Contains both adjacent and non-adjacent forms of alliteration.

"Farming families who fled the fighting for shelter in neighboring countries or found themselves displaced from their communities want a fresh start. They want to return home. They want seeds. They want farm implements. They want roads to get their goods to market.

We must not betray their trust."

-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Address to the U.S. Congress

"So the way to a better Title IX justice process is not to undermine rights, but to uphold them. The way to put an end to the crisis of confidence on too many campuses is to rediscover the fundamentals of our Founding on which our Framers staked their futures for the sake of ours."

-- Betsy DeVos, On Title IX Regulatory Changes

Note: Double alliteration (hard "c" and "f") with support from an anaphora ("The way to").

"Did this [football] hit the upright and the crossbar? Oh, my goodness. The Bears' season's gonna end on a double doink. Unbelievable."

-- delivered by Chris Collins

"September 2nd [1945] is the day that the United States and our Allies turned tragedy into triumph, violence into victory, fighting into freedom, loss into liberty, and peril into peace."

-- Adm. Phil Davidson, Remarks at a U.S. Navy 75th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony of WWII Event

"My respect for the Justice Department and my commitment to this country are why I agreed to serve as Special Counsel when asked by the Attorney General. I resolved to do the work, as I did all my work for the Department, fairly, thoroughly, and professionally, with close attention to the policies and practices that govern Department prosecutors."

-- Robert K. Hur, Opening Statement to Congress on Special Counsel's Report

Rhetorical Figures in Sound

Online Speech Bank

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American Rhetoric.
Created by Michael E. Eidenmuller.
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