Litotes, derived from a Greek phrase meaning “simple,” is a parent of speech that employs an understatement through the use of double negatives or, in other words, a wonderful announcement expressed by using negating its contrary expressions.
For example, the usage of the expression “no longer too horrific” for “very good” is an understatement, in addition to a double terrible announcement that confirms a fantastic idea through negating the opposite (that means it’s good, by way of pronouncing it’s not awful). Similarly, pronouncing “She isn't a beauty queen,” method she is ugly, or announcing “I am no longer as young as I used to be,” that allows you to avoid announcing I am old. Litotes, therefore, is an intentional use of understatement that renders an ironic effect.
Common Litotes Examples
In normal life, it is not unusual to experience litotes in conversations, although now not many people are aware of this time period and its usage. Below are a few examples of litotes from every day conversations:
They do now not appear the happiest couple around.
The ice cream became now not too terrible.
New York isn't an regular city.
Your feedback on politics are not useless.
You are not as younger as you used to be.
I can not disagree with your factor of view.
William Shakespeare was no longer a awful playwright at all.
He isn't the cleverest individual I have ever met.
She isn't always not like her mother.
Ken Adams isn't an regular man
A million dollars isn't any small amount.
You aren't doing badly at all.
Your apartment isn't always unclean.
Interestingly, the use of understatement within the above litotes examples adds emphasis to the thoughts, rather than reducing their importance. This is because of the ironic effect produced by the understatement.
Examples of Litotes in Literature
In literature, writers and poets use this type of parent of speech in their texts with a purpose to vividly communicate novel ideas to readers.
Example #1: A Tale of a Tub (By Jonathan Swift)
“I am no longer unaware how the productions of the Grub Street brotherhood have of past due years fallen beneath many prejudices.”
Now simply see how Swift has used double negatives to emphasise the factor that he's totally privy to it. The irony is that he's aware, however he's saying it as though he is unaware that he isn't always.
Example #2: Fire and Ice (By Robert Frost)
“Some say the arena will lead to fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I maintain with folks who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know sufficient of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is additionally great
And could suffice.”
If you examine this quick piece through Robert Frost very carefully, you’ll see that calling the destruction as a result of ice “great” is balanced via an opposing declaration “would suffice,” is an understatement.
Example #3: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave (By Frederick Douglass)
“Indeed, it isn't unusual for slaves even to fall out and quarrel among themselves approximately the relative goodness in their masters, each contending for the superior goodness of his very own over that of the others.”
Mr. Douglass turned into an African-American social reformer and a writer. He has effectively used litotes to strain his factor that even slaves used to are seeking for dominance over different slaves by using maintaining out that their respective masters had been much higher than the ones of the other slaves.
Function of Litotes
Litotes uses ironic understatement which will emphasize an idea or situation, as opposed to minimizing its importance. It instead discovers a unique way to attract human beings’s attention to an concept, and this is by means of ignoring it.
J.R. Bergmann, in his book Talk at Work: Interaction in Institutional Settings, talks about litotes inside the following words:
“I want to assert that the rhetorical discern litotes is one of these methods which can be used to talk about an object in a discreet way. It surely locates an object for the recipient, however it avoids naming it directly.”
This is the best that has ever been said approximately litotes – that to ignore an object and still talk approximately it in a negative manner is the first-class manner to make it appear critical and prominent.
Popular Literary Devices
- Ad Hominem
- Deus Ex Machina
- Double Entendre
- Flash Forward
- Half Rhyme
- Internal Rhyme
- Line Break
- Non Sequitur
- Pathetic Fallacy
- Poetic Justice
- Point of View
- Red Herring
- Tragic Flaw