parison (rhetoric)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

parison
This simple example of parison was the motto of British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881). (Hong Li/Getty Images)

Definition

Parison is a rhetorical term for corresponding structure in a series of phrasesclauses, or sentencesadjective to adjective, noun to noun, and so on. Adjective: parisonic. Also known as parisosis, membrum, and compar.

In grammatical terms, parison is a type of parallel or correlative structure.

In Directions for Speech and Style (circa 1599), Elizabethan poet John Hoskins described parison as "an even gait of sentences answering each other in measures interchangeably." He cautioned that although "it is a smooth and memorable style for utterance, .

. . in penning [writing] it must be used moderately and modestly."

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:


Etymology
From the Greek. "evenly balanced"
 

Examples and Observations

  • "The closer you get, the better you look."
    (advertising slogan for Nice 'n' Easy Shampoo)
     
  • "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons."
    (Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Worship")
     
  • "Everything you want, nothing you don't."
    (slogan for Nissan automobiles)
     
  • "The milk chocolate melts in your mouth—not in your hand."
    (advertising slogan for M&Ms candy)
     
  • "Promise her anything, but give her Arpege."
    (advertising slogan for Arpege perfume, 1940s)
     
  • "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
    (President John Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 1961)
     
  • "A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine."
    (slogan of the Florida Citrus Commission)
     
  • "I have lov'd, and got, and told,
    But should I love, get, tell, till I were old,
    I should not find that hidden mystery."
    (John Donne, "Love's Alchemy")
     
  • "He that is to be saved will be saved, and he that is predestined to be damned will be damned."
    (James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans, 1826)
     
  • "Oh, cursed be the hand that made these holes;
    Cursed the heart that had the heart to do it;
    Cursed the blood that lets this blood from hence."
    (Lady Anne's curse in Act I, scene 2 of William Shakespeare's King Richard III)
     
  • An Instrument of Delight
    "Based as it is on identity of sound, parison is usually classified with figures of similitude and sometimes associated with methods of amplification, techniques for expanding and comparing. . . . Parison is, of course, an instrument of delight, 'causing,' in [Henry] Peacham's words, 'delectation by the vertue of proportion and number.' At the same time, however, it serves a heuristic function, enlarging and dividing a topic for purposes of analysis, comparison, and discrimination. By arranging ideas into parallel forms, whether phrases or clauses, the prose writer calls the reader's attention to an especially significant idea; at the same time, however, such an arrangement focuses the reader's mind on the semantic similarities, differences, or oppositions exposed in parallel structures. . . .

    "Parison—along with its rhetorical cognates—is one of the cornerstones of early-modern English writing."
    (Russ McDonald, "Compar or Parison: Measure for Measure." Renaissance Figures of Speech, ed. by Sylvia Adamson, Gavin Alexander, and Katrin Ettenhuber. Cambridge University Press, 2007)

     
  • Correlative Statements
    "Here we have a type of notional structure which involves proportionality. It is seen in such statements as the following: The bigger they are the harder they fall, The harder they work the sooner they go home. And perhaps even in the well-known adage, As Maine goes, so goes the nation, although the latter example is different in some ways from the former two. Each of these examples implies a set of conditional sentences, thus: The bigger they are the harder they fall could be broken into a set of sentences, If they are small they don't fall very hard; If they are medium-sized they fall rather hard; If they are big, they fall very hard, where small, medium-sized, and big are matched with not very hard, rather hard, and very hard respectively."
    (Robert E. Longacre, The Grammar of Discourse, 2nd ed. Springer, 1996) 

    Pronunciation: PAR-uh-son