traductio (rhetoric)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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Traductio is a rhetorical term (or figure of speech) for the repetition of a word or phrase in the same sentence. Also known as transplacement and the translacer.

Traductio is used sometimes as a form of word play (when the meaning of the repeated word changes) and sometimes for emphasis (when the meaning stays the same). Accordingly, traductio is defined in The Princeton Handbook of Poetic Terms (1986) as "the use of the same word in different connotations or a balancing of homonyms."

In The Garden of Eloquence (1593), Henry Peacham defines traductio as "a forme of speech which repeateth one word often times in one sentence, making the oration more pleasant to the eare." He compares the effect of the figure to the "pleasant repetitions and divisions" in music, noting that the aim of traductio is to "garnish the sentence with oft repetition, or to note well the importance of the word repeated."

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

From the Latin, "transference"

Examples and Observations

  • "A person's a person, no matter how small!"
    (Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who! Random House, 1954)
  • "When she waded into the brook, Wilbur waded in with her. He found the water quite cold--too cold for his liking."
    (E.B. White, Charlotte's Web. Harper, 1952)
  • "I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."
    (Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales. New Directions, 1955)
  • "I was awakened from a dream,
    a dream entwined with cats,
    by a cat's close presence."
    (John Updike, "Daughter." Collected Poems: 1953-1993. Knopf, 1993)
  • "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."
    (Attributed to Benjamin Franklin, comment at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 1776)
  • "Yet graceful Ease, and Sweetness void of Pride,
    Might hide her Faults, if Belles had Faults to hide."
    (Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock, 1714)
  • "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
    (The Gospel of John 1:1, The Bible)
  • Traductio Defined in the Latin Text Rhetorica ad Herennium
    "Transplacement (traductio) makes it possible for the same word to be frequently reintroduced, not only without offense to good taste, but even so as to render the style more elegant. To this kind of figure also belongs that which occurs when the same word is used first in one function and then in another."
    (Rhetorica ad Herennium, c. 90 BC, translated by Harry Caplan, 1954)
  • The African-American Preacher's Use of Traductio
    "The preacher makes generous use of the technique of repetition. When it is humdrum or inept, repetition will put the congregation to sleep; but when done with poetry and passion it will keep them wide awake and clapping. The preacher may make a simple statement: 'Sometimes all we need is a little talk with Jesus.' And the congregation responds: 'Go on and talk to him.' Repeat: 'I said we need to talk, we need to talk, we need to talk, talk, to have a little talk, with Jesus.' And the members will answer. If this repetition should approach the sound of music, he can half-sing and preach on that one word, 'talk,' until the clapping and answering builds to a crescendo. It is the energy generated by such repetition, which when put on paper may appear naive and pointless, that fires the oral tradition."
    (Onwuchekwa Jemie, Yo Mama!: New Raps, Toasts, Dozens, Jokes, and Children's Rhymes From Urban Black America. Temple University Press, 2003)

Pronunciation: tra-DUK-ti-o

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Nordquist, Richard. "traductio (rhetoric)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). traductio (rhetoric). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "traductio (rhetoric)." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 16, 2021).