Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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In rhetoric, a figure of syntactic substitution in which one grammatical form (person, case, gender, number, tense) is replaced by another (usually ungrammatical) form. Also known as the figure of exchange.

Enallage is related to solecism (a deviation from conventional word order). Enallage, however, is usually regarded as a deliberate stylistic device, whereas a solecism is commonly treated as an error of usage.

Nonetheless, Richard Lanham suggests that "the ordinary student will not go far wrong in using enallage as a general term for the whole broad range of substitutions, intentional or not" (Handbook of Rhetorical Terms, 1991).

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:


From the Greek, "change, exchange"

Examples and Observations

  • "Emphasis is what enallage can give us; it draws reaction by shifting the function of a word from that of its usual part of speech to an uncharacteristic function, thereby thwarting the predictable. . . .

    "Here's a classic case of enallage: When a credit agency identifies a deadbeat debtor, the nonpayer is referred to not merely as a 'bad risk' or 'bad person,' but as a 'bad.' Shifting the adjective 'bad' into a noun is like saying, 'once a bad, always a bad, and bad through and through.'"
    (Arthur Plotnik, Spunk & Bite. Random House, 2005)
  • "'Got milk?' is substandard speech. So is Subway’s 'Eat fresh.' . . .

    "'It’s a trick called enallage: a slight deliberate grammatical mistake that makes a sentence stand out.

    "'We was robbed.' 'Mistah Kurtz—he dead.' 'Thunderbirds are go.' All of these stick in our minds because they’re just wrong—wrong enough to be right."
    (Mark Forsyth, "Rhetorical Reasons That Slogans Stick." The New York Times, November 13, 2014)
  • "The hyssop doth tree it in Judea."
    (Thomas Fuller, quoted by John Walker Vilant Macbeth in The Might and Mirth of Literature: A Treatise on Figurative Language, 1875)
  • "Whose scoffed words he taking halfe in scorne,
    Fiercely forth prickt his steed as in disdaine . . .."
    (Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queen, Book 4, Canto 2)
  • "Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind;
    Thou losest here, a better where to find."
    (William Shakespeare, King Lear)
  • "Being now awake, I'll queen it no inch further,
    But milk my ewes, and weep."
    (William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale)
  • " . . . how wickedly and wretchedly soever a man shall live, though he furs himself warm with poor men's hearts . . .."
    (Thomas Adams, The Three Divine Sisters)
  • Enallage as a Rhetorical Figure
    "In narrative texts, a substitution of the past tense by the present tense (praesens historicum) takes place, when the intended effect is a vivid representation (enargeia). Not merely a solecism or a grammatical mistake, enallage is employed with a functional intentionality, which gives it the status of a rhetorical figure."
    (Heinrich F. Plett, "Enallage," Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, edited by Thomas O. Sloane. Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • The Figure of Exchange: From Latin To English
    "Of all the disorderly figures of speech I have considered thus far, enallage proves to be the most resistant to translation into English. The figure manipulates grammatical accidents, substituting one case, person, gender, or tense for another, and it does not have any obvious function in an uninflected language apart from the system of pronouns. Yet despite its basic unworkability in the vernacular, enallage and its subfigure antiposis appear in four English rhetorics published between 1550 and 1650. . . . In order to make enallage 'speak English'--to turn it into the 'Figure of exchange'--these rhetorics redefine it as a mode of pronoun substitution, turning enallage into a figure that exchanges 'he' for 'she.' Like the costumes of the early modern stage, the figure allows English words to change their 'case,' or garments."
    (Jenny C. Mann, Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare's England. Cornell University Press, 2012)

    Also Known As: figure of exchange, anatiptosis​

    Pronunciation: eh-NALL-uh-gee