In rhetoric, chiasmus is a figure of speech which consists of two phrases or clauses which are parallel in syntax but with reversed structures (or inverted parallelism). As the name implies, the composition resembles an X in formation.
A synonym of chiasmus, antimetabole (pronounced an-ti-mə-tab-ə-lee) is the repetition of words in successive clauses, but in transposed grammatical order (e.g., “I know what I like, and I like what I know”). It is similar to chiasmus although chiasmus does not use repetition of the same words or phrases.
It appears that most modern grammarians use the two words interchangeably.
Pliny the Younger uses the chiasmus frequently in his letters.
For example, in his letter about the death of Pliny the Elder, he described his uncle sailing into danger to save others:
“He hurried to the place from where others were fleeing.”
“There is a man present of the highest authority, duty, and faith, M. Lucullus who (will testify) that he himself does not believe but knows, did not hear but saw, was not only present but did it himself.”
In Wounds, p. 74 of the ms is this statement: “Here was all the proof he needed, if he needed proof of his villainy.” In fact, the book itself is formulated on a chiastic structure. (MuseItUp Publishing)
Elegant examples of chiasmus are found in the writings of political figures, for instance, four American presidents.
“…ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961.
“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” John F. Kennedy
“America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way round. Human rights invented America.” Jimmy Carter Farewell Address
The US Declaration of Independence, referring to the British: “We must… hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.” (Thomas Jefferson).
“People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.” Bill Clinton at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
As well as,
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” Anon
“They say money don’t make the man but man, I’m makin’ money.” Tupac Shakur in the song “Thug Passion.”
Some of the more familiar examples of chiasmus come from the Bible. “Who sheds the blood of a man, by a man shall his blood be shed…” Genesis 9:6.
Examples abound, too, in poetry.
“Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.” P. B. Shelley, Defense of Poetry.
And sometimes in children’s literature.
“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!” Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches an Egg.
Chiasmus does not need to be lexical; it can also be aural, as the classic quote,
“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”
Or the Fall Out Boy song title: “Champagne for my Real Friends; Real Pain for my Sham Friends”.
So bowing out on that entertaining note, this document will bid you goodbye.