Rhetorical technique: "enallage"


When Boris Johnson said in his farewell speech last week “Them’s the breaks”, he was employing a rhetorical technique called ‘enallage’.

It’s pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, and the last bit rhymes with ‘spillage’, not ‘entourage’.


Far be it from us at Same-Sky Languages to pass judgement on the content of this or anything else he did or said, but we assume that he was at least in control of what he was saying; that his howler of a grammatical error was intentional, made for oratorical effect.


* If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

* You pays your money, you takes your choice

* Thanking you kindly

* We was robbed

* I’m loving it (McDonalds slogan)


All of these are common examples of enallage, used for mildly comic effect, or because they have become engrained in the canon of set expressions that English speakers like to employ.


I’ll bet that a non-native speaker who has recently studied for an advanced level English exam has a better chance of explaining why the grammar of the phrase “I’m loving it” is technically incorrect.

Anyone got this…?



Andy Wenger specialises in teaching French, Spanish and German, mainly to adults who think they have 'forgotten everything', but who want to rekindle their knowledge for the language in question. Granted, this post is more about language itself rather than one particular foreign language, but we find that most students who come to us appreciate insights like this, as much as learning new words that will help them get from the airport to the hotel...


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