Tag Archives: rhetoric

ESPN, Sports Radio, and Cicero

I watch a lot of ESPN and, even more, listen to sports radio. I don’t know if it is that I have recently had Cicero on the mind or if Ciceronian rhetoric is becoming more common in sports analysis, but I am hearing an overwhelming amount of analysts that I would swear are Cicero reincarnate. I prefer to think that these learned sportscasters have just been brushing up on their Cicero and using his techniques.  The following is a list of Ciceronian strategies and how they are being used on ESPN and sports radio shows.

Adiectio:

This is the act of inserting extra or superfluous words just for the sake of sounding smart and elegant. I don’t have a problem with this since I like a good vocabulary in a person, but I include this as a warning more than anything. If you are not 100% sure of what the word means, what part of speech it is, or how it can and cannot be used in a sentence, please, I beg you, don’t use the word. You will sound much more intelligent if you just stick to what you know.  I applaud John Kruk for not going crazy with his vocabulary and sticking to who he is. On the other side of that I love Pardon the Interruption, but they drive me nuts with this.

Paralipsis:

The definition is as follows: To call attention to something by specifically mentioning you won’t do that (mannerofspeaking.org). This is what brought me to write this particular post. In an argument on a local sports radio station over the Eagles retiring Donovan Mcnabb’s number, I kept hearing the phrase, “I’m not even going to mention…” This is the most Ciceronian of all rhetorical skills! Cicero uses this endlessly to sound like he is above mentioning the unmentionables, but by saying this he is mentioning these things. He does this most notably in his speeches against Catiline and Marc Antony. In the Mcnabb arguments both the radio hosts and callers could not resist saying, “I won’t even mention the puking at the Super Bowl incident.” You mentioned it by saying you won’t mention it. This is one of the oldest of rhetorical devices and probably one of the most commonly used today.

Expolitio:

ESPN thrives on this principle. Expolitio is basically attempting to make an argument stronger by restating it over and over in many different ways. The show Around the Horn is based entirely on this technique. All they do on that show is restate each other’s opinions while one person (usually Woody) disagrees with everyone else just so that the show is a little bit interesting.

Coniectura:

As I am writing this ESPN is really harping on Dwight Howard for being indecisive and constant source of drama. Coniectura is using someone’s character or way of life as proof of something. In the Dwight Howard case they are claiming he is not as valuable of basketball player and some analysts are even questioning his skills. This questioning is all in response to the drama surrounding his potential return to the Lakers. They are using his character and indecisiveness off the court to talk about his game on the court, classic coniectura.

These are just a few of the ways Cicero can be heard in modern sports analysis, but there are so many and I really could go on forever. Of course, these techniques can also be found in political speeches and other news reporting, or just anywhere people are speaking about anything. A list of Cicero’s rhetorical devices can be found here and I’m sure if you just watch an hour of Sportscenter (wading through all of the awful Twitter reporting) you will find many of these in use.

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This week I would like to talk a little about legal terms, but more so about The Big Bang Theory. I know that this is not a new episode, but I saw it again recently and thought it perfect to write about. In this episode Sheldon must go to traffic court because he was caught on a traffic cam running a red light while driving Penny to the hospital. His first use of Latin as he approaches the judge is to tell him that he is appearing in pro se, or in representation of himself.  Se is the reflexive pronoun referring back to the invisible subject of this sentence, Sheldon.  Continuing his great use of classical rhetoric and a three legged argument, Sheldon states that he will argue the legal doctrine of quod est necessarium est licitum, “That which is necessary is legal.”  The first thing I must do is applaud the pronunciation as he used the hard “c” in both necessarium and licitum. While this defense has in fact worked in certain cases throughout history, it did not work for Sheldon.  An interesting note about this though is that I cannot find an origin for the Latin phrase in Ancient Rome (if someone finds one please let me know). Instead it seems to be one of those things that has come about and translated into Latin to give it more prestige.  I must say I was very disturbed while trying to find an origin by the overwhelming number of Law websites, journals, and other publications which said quad instead of quod, a word which doesn’t even exist in the Latin paradigm of qui, quae, quod.

Sorry for the short post this week, but there was not a lot to say about this since it didn’t in fact have an ancient origin I could find, and I didn’t have a lot of time today. I will be back with a bigger post next week.

Big Bang Theory: Quod Est Necassarium Est Licitum

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