Word of the day: Chiasmus

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What is the connection with a chiasmus and JFK – John F Kennedy?

1.Rhetoric. a reversal in the order of words in two otherwise parallel phrases, as in “He went to the country, to the town went she.”

One well-known example of chiasmus is Quintillian’s purported phrase “one does not (a) live to (b) eat; one (b) eats to (a) live.”Other examples are Mae West’s “it’s not the men in my life [that matter], it’s the life in my men.” And then there is President John F. Kennedy’s famous phrase, “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Chiasmus stems from the Greek word chiasmós meaning “crossing,” and which in turn is formed on the root chi, the twenty-second letter of the Greek alphabet (X, χ). It entered English in the 1870s.

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