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Chiasmus Examples: Chiasmus for Students and Children

Survey proves that not even one in ten people would know what a chiasmus is; in fact, only two in a thousand can identify it correctly. So, if you are unaware of such a figure of speech then worry not, as you have come to the right place! A chiasmus is when the order of words is reversed in parallel expressions that are found in two or more clauses. It is derived from the Greek word ‘chiazo’, which denotes the letter X. The use of chiasmus is popular in Greek, Latin and English languages, especially in Shakespeare’s works, the Hebrew texts of the Bible, Analects of Confucius and the Book of Mormon. It was also seen in Sanskrit, Mesopotamian, Chinese and Egyptian texts. “Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You” – Mardy Grothe (1999); one of the best known examples of a chiasmus and coined as the title of the book. In classic rhetoric, this figure of speech can be differentiated from an antimetabole, which is repetition of words in successive clauses in grammatical order. In a chiasmus, there is no recurrence of the same two terms. When chiasmus is applied to entire passages or writings, it is called a chiastic structure.

Examples Of Chiasmus

Types:

  • Implied – Here, the original phrase/saying being inverted is only implied and there is no explicit reference to its alteration. Example: “A hard man is good to find.” – Mae West (Reversing, a good man is hard to find).
  • Double – The most impressive form of chiasmus when more than two reversals occur in the same sentence. Example: A statesman is a politician who places himself at the service of the nation. (Or, a politician is a statesman who places the nation at his service).
  • Phonetic – The syllables of different words may contribute to the existence of a chiasmus. Example: “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” – Winston Churchill.
  • Letter Reversal – Chiasmus can also be created while inverting individual letters of words, instead of terms themselves. Example: A magician pulls rabbits out of hats. (Instead of, an experimental psychologist pulls habits out of rats).
  • Numerical Reversal – Even reversal of numbers, as contrary to alphabets, can be calculated as a chiasmus. Example: “A lawyer starts life giving $500 worth of law for $5 and ends giving $5 worth for $500.”
  • Phrase Reversal – Here, a certain phrase, instead of single words, is reversed and emphasized on to make a point. Example: “Lust is what makes you keep wanting to do it, Even when you have no desire to be with each other. Love is what makes you keep wanting to be with each other, Even when you have no desire to do it.” – Judith Viorst.

As Quotations

  • The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults. – Peter de Vries
  • Do I love you because you’re beautiful?
    Or are you beautiful because I love you? – Oscar Hammerstein.
  • They don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care – Jim Calhoun.
  • I’d rather be looked than overlooked. – Mae West.
  • In the blue grass region,
    A paradox was born:
    The corn was full of kernals
    And the colonels full of corn. – John Marshall.
  • Some have an idea that the reason we in this country discard things so readily is because we have so much. The facts are exactly opposite – the reason we have so much is simply because we discard things so readily. – Alfred P. Solan.
  • Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things. – Jacquelyn Small.
  • One should eat to live, not live to eat. – Cicero.
  • In the 70’s I threw in the 90’s;
    In the 90’s I throw in the 70’s. – Frank Tanana.
  • I find Paul appealing
    and Peale appalling. – Adlai Stevenson.
  • There are trivial truths and great truths.
    The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false.
    The opposite of a great truth is also true. – Niels Bohr.
  • The instinct of a man is
    to pursue everything that flies from him, and
    to fly from all that pursues him. – Voltaire.
  • The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order. – Alfred North Whitehead.
  • When religion was strong and science weak, men
    mistook magic for medicine;
    Now, when science is strong and religion weak, men
    mistake medicine for magic. – Thomas Szaz
  • Our very hopes belied our fears,
    our fears our hopes belied;
    We thought her dying when she slept,
    and sleeping when she died. – Thomas Hood.
  • She would rather fool with a bee than be with a fool. – John Kendrick Bangs.
  • This isn’t a bar for writers with a drinking problem; it’s for drinkers with a writing problem. – Judy Joice.
  • Infantile love follows the principle: “I love because I am loved.” Mature love follows the principle: “I am loved because I love.” Immature love says: “I love you because I need you.” Mature love says: “I need you because I love you.” – Erich Fromm.

In Scripture

  • But many that are first
    shall be last
    and the last
    shall be first. – Jesus (Bible: Matthew 7:6).
  • Make the heart of this people fat,
    and make their ears heavy,
    and shut their eyes,
    lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. (Bible: Isaiah 6:10).
  • Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
    who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
    who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20).

Given above are a few chiasmus examples. Hope they helped you in understanding the meaning better! Although it is poetic and ancient language, chiasmus can also be used as a figure of speech in current day, as it adds fun and liveliness to the text.

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