6 famous rhetorical devices used by Winston Churchill

A question of rhetoric.

Churchill’s extraordinary speeches hinged on a series of Classical rhetorical devices. In an essay entitled The Scaffolding of Rhetoric, he described their use as ‘the subtle art of combining the various elements that separately mean nothing and collectively mean so much in an harmonious proportion is known to a very few’.

Here are a few of his most famous flourishes:

The repetition of words or phrases at the start of a succession of clauses.
‘We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender’

Deliberate understatement.
‘Business carried on as usual during alterations on the map of Europe’

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The repetition of words in successive clauses, but with their order transposed.
‘This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning’

Using similar-sounding words or phrases.
‘To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war’

An arresting image that pushes the boundaries of ordinary usage.
‘…a new Dark Age made more sinister… by the lights of perverted science’

Emphatic repetition.
‘…this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never.