The paradiastole is a relatively unknown figure of speech, but one which can be cuttingly witty when used well. It can be used as a compliment or a put-down. It often involves using words that are almost synonyms.
I can use it as a compliment by comparing you with me such as “I am downright stingy, but you are frugal and thrifty”.
Then I can flip it into an insult by saying “Look, I am a thrifty person, but you are just mean”.
The word comes from the Greek “para” (beside) and “diastole” (distinct).
The paradiastole comes into its own in a job interview. For every strength you identify there is a negative connotation, and you should explore what that could mean.
“I am very focused on the detail and bring a high degree of accuracy to my work“. Sounds good? The interviewer may read this as “I am an introvert who is anally retentive about the smallest error in punctuation and I take forever to complete anything for fear of making a mistake“.
In many interviews you will be asked to identify your three biggest weaknesses. The standard approach to this response is to rephrase them as positives. “One boss told me I was a dreadful chatterbox, but I was the one who built relationships around the office, so when we needed a favor he would ask me to approach the person.”
Boris Johnson is currently touting a paradiastole in the form “I thought it was a work event, not a party“.
Shakespeare wrote sonnet after sonnet extolling the wonders of his mistress. One day he got bored of that and penned this entertaining roast, but I wonder did he ever actually deliver it?
Sonnet 130: by William Shakespeare
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
if snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
if hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
but no such roses see I in her cheeks;
and in some perfumes is there more delight
than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
that music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
my mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
as any she belied with false compare.
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