Allusion: Figure of explication using a brief or casual reference to a famous person, group, historical event, place, or work of art. It is important to stress that the referent of an allusion be generally well-known. Sources include history, myth, and the Bible. Contemporary instances of allusion extend to media created content, events, and persons -- even to the extent that a character in one movie may use an allusion in referring to a fictional, but nonetheless well-known, event or person from another movie. Popular music lyrics are a further source of allusion.


"And finally you’re all familiar with Dr. [Ian] Wilmut's cloned sheep. We actually missed the real story behind this. We’re so interested in talking about when this will happen with humans. (And, by the way, if we haven’t already done it somewhere, the cloning of a human being is likely anytime. It’s no longer a theoretical issue; it’s just a question of who’s going to do it.) The real story behind the sheep is that Dr. Wilmut created the prototype for bio-industrial design. He’s the Henry Ford of the Biotech Century. It is now possible to replicate in countless numbers exact copies of an original living creature with the same kind of quality controls and engineering standards we did using mass production and assembly line factory work with inert materials. That’s what’s so important about this animal. We moved from the industrial age to the bio-industrial age."

-- Jeremy Rifkin, The BioTech Century

"Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do. And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side."

-- George W. Bush, 2000 Inaugural Address

Note: The reference here is to the biblical character in the parable about the good Samaritan.

"Reviewing a cost-benefit analysis for every military base in the country is as mind-numbing as a Radiohead concert...And deciding which military bases we don't need anymore is the most politically disastrous thing you could ever get involved with."

-- delivered by Bradley Whitford from the TV Series The West Wing, Season 5, Ep. 15)

  "Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire -- first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire. In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel.

- Benjamin Netanyahu, Third Joint Session of Congress Address

Question: On a matter of policy, is this Administration’s policy that an attack on a U.S. company constitutes an attack on the U.S. government? You’re clearly holding the state of North Korea responsible here. So can you explain that policy?

Mr. Bossert: I will say that it’s not about holding a country accountable; it’s about simple culpability. We’ve determined who was behind the [WannaCry] attack and we’re saying it. It’s pretty straightforward. It’s, 'All I’ve learned about cybersecurity, I learned in kindergarten.' We’re going to hold them accountable, and we’re going to say it. And we’re going to shame them for it."

-- Tom Bossert, Press Briefing on WannaCry Malware Attribution

Note: The allusion here is to American author Robert Fulghum's book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, which promulgated and popularized the notion that the fundamental rules of good conduct acquired during childhood ought to be normative for adult behavior (including -- here, especially -- honesty and accountability).

Jon Krakauer: "We have the first radio call from just below the summit -- Rob [Hall] asking for help, saying 'Doug [Hansen] and I have run out of oxygen...Doug's in trouble...We need help.'"

David Breashears: "We're 5000 feet away -- 5000 feet away on Everest. At those elevations, you might as well be trying to rescue the people in Apollo 13."

-- from the Discovery Channel documentary Everest: Death Mountain

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.  And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

- Martin Luther King, Jr., "I've Been to the Mountaintop"

Note: There are at least two allusions in this passage. One is an allusion to Moses' plea to God to cross the Jordan river and enter the "promised land" set aside for the Israelites upon the culmination of their 40-year journey through the "wilderness" (Deut 3: 23-27). God allowed Moses to view the land from a distance, high atop a mountain, but denied him the satisfaction of physically entering it. A second allusion (perhaps an allusion within an allusion) may be to a song entitled the "Battle Hymn of the Republic,"  -- alternatively, "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" -- whose lyrics allude to God's coming judgment upon the wicked (Isaiah 63, Revelation 19) at the end of the age.

"And finally, a worldwide program of farm productivity and food distribution, similar to our country's "Food for Peace" program could, now, give every child the food he needs. But man does not live by bread alone, and the members of this organization are committed by the Charter to promote and respect human rights."

- John F. Kennedy, Final United Nations Address

James H. Billington: "The greatest of all treasures are, of course, the humans ones and so it's my special pleasure to turn it over to the human treasure that's with us today."

Jaime Escalante: "Thank you. Uh, do I have to say something, Eddie?"

Edward James Olmos: "Yes!" [off mic]

Jaime Escalante: "Okay."

Edward James Olmos: "You're going to have to stand and deliver."

-- Library of Congress' 1988 Excellence in Education Award Ceremony

Sen. Mitch McConnell: The Democrats are angry -- angry that the facts disappointed them; angry that our legal system will not magically undo the 2016 election for them; and they've opted to channel all their partisan anger onto the Attorney General. And so, the Left has swung all these cannons around and fired them at the Attorney General just because he's a convenient target. There's this outrage-industrial complex. Outrage-industrial complex. This spans from Capitol press conferences to cable news. They're grieving -- that the national crisis they spent two years wishing for did not materialize.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: A little while ago the Majority Leader stood on this floor to speak about the investigation into the 2016 presidential election. He triumphantly declared "case closed," "case closed." The majority leader would have us believe that scrutinizing this evidence is a matter of Democrats (quote) "refusing to make peace with the American people's choice." He wants to portray this as just a (quote) "outrage-industrial complex" because some people don't like that President Trump won. Sure, there's plenty to be outraged about in [the] Special Counsel's report, but no one here is pitching a fit that Democrats didn't win the election. No, what's at stake here is the Constitution of the United States of America. Will Congress do its job and fulfill its constitutional duty to serve as a check on the President?

-- Senate Floor Speeches on 7 May 2019

Note: Allusion to President Eisenhower's dire warning of a military-industrial complex" in his Farewell Address

"Glasnost [openness] and perestroika [restructuring] are shaking the East bloc -- the ultimate tribute to the strength of freedom, to the desire of people wherever they live to control their own destiny. And it is the words of [Abraham] Lincoln, that are quoted -- "a government of the people, by the people, for the people." For many of us, the root of all this progress, the foundation of democracy, lies on this continent, 200 years ago, in your covenant of freedom, in words penned by [James] Madison, "We the People."

-- Benazir Bhutto, Address to the U.S. Congress

Note: Allusions to what are widely celebrated as among the most famous speeches ("The Gettysburg Address") and the most important political documents ("The Constitution of the United States" ((Preamble)) in American history.

"Last week, the American people spoke. And their voices were raised in defense of liberty, of the rule of law, and of Democracy itself. With these elections, the people stood in the breach and repelled the assault on Democracy. They resoundingly rejected violence and insurrection. And in doing so, ‘gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.’ And now, we owe to the American people our very best to deliver on their faith, to forever reach for the more perfect union: the glorious horizon that our Founders promised."

-- Nancy Pelosi, Floor Speech on Not Re-Seeking House Leadership Role

Note: Allusion to the National Anthem of the United States of America

"Okay, you got six people hiding out in a town of, what, four million people, all of whom chant "Death to America!" all the live long day. You want to set up a movie in a week. You want to lie to Hollywood, a town where everybody lies for a living. Then you're gonna sneak 007 over here into a country that wants CIA blood on their breakfast cereal, and you're gonna walk the the Brady Bunch out of the most watched city in the world. Look, I -- I gotta tell you -- we did suicide missions in the Army that had better odds than this."

-- delivered by Alan Arkin, from the movie Argo

Rhetorical Figures in Sound

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