Encyclopedia > Chiasmus

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Chiasmus, derived from the X-shaped Greek letter khi (χ), is a rhetorical figure in which two objects are related to one another in a "crossing" structure.

The simplest example would be something like "I love you as you love me."

Slightly more elaborate in form: instead of the straightforward: I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg, use of chiasmus might produce: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.

The term is typically used to refer only to more elaborate forms, such as Frederick Douglass, "You have seen how a man became a slave; you shall see how a slave becomes a man."

Perhaps the most famous example is John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."

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