Chiasmus: ABBA, and the fine print.

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Chiasmus is:

Winners never quit
and quitters never win

or ABBA:

A —- Winners
B —- never quit
B —- and quitters
A —- never win

In this example, the second clause is a reversal of the first, and is placed in opposition to the first.


 

Chiasmus is also:

When the going gets tough,
the tough get going

or ABBA:

A —- When the going
B —- gets tough
B —- the tough
A —- get going

 


 

But it is also an example of Antimetabole.

Why?

In this example, the second clause is still a reversal of the first, and placed in opposition to the first, but it maintains the exact same grammatical structure, words, and rhythm. Maintaining the exact same grammatical structure, words, and rhythm is a requirement for antimetabole, but not for chiasmus. Antimetabole is like chiasmus but stricter.

 


 

So,

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy,”

or ABBA:

A —- have a bottle
B —- in front of me
B —- than a frontal
A —- lobotamy

is chiastic, but not antimetabolistic because of the latter’s strict wording requirements.


 

This week, I will explore the uses of the two interrelated structures to find out how they can enrich writing by focussing on their role in specific texts. I hope you find the journey as fruitful as I do.