FACTOID # 7: The top five best educated states are all in the Northeast.
 Home   Encyclopedia   Statistics   States A-Z   Flags   Maps   FAQ   About 


FACTS & STATISTICS    Advanced view

Search encyclopedia, statistics and forums:



(* = Graphable)



Encyclopedia > Rhetorical question

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for rhetorical effect rather than to receive an answer. Rhetorical questions encourage the listener to reflect on what the implied answer to the question must be. When a speaker declaims, "How much longer must our people endure this injustice?" or "Will our company grow or shrink?", or "How many times do I have to tell you to stop walking into the house with mud on your shoes?"; no formal answer is expected. Rather, it is a device used by the speaker to assert or deny something. A figure of speech, sometimes termed a rhetoric, or elocution, is a word or phrase that departs from straightforward, literal language. ... Rhetoric (from Greek , rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of oral or written language; however, this definition of rhetoric has expanded greatly since rhetoric emerged as a field of study in universities. ...



A rhetorical question typically ends in a question mark (?), but occasionally may end with an exclamation mark (!) or even a period (.) according to some writing style guides[citation needed]. For example: The question mark(?) (also known as an interrogation point, query,[1] or eroteme) is a punctuation mark that replaces the full stop at the end of an interrogative sentence. ... an exclamation mark An exclamation mark, exclamation point or bang, !, is usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feeling. ... Look up period in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

  • "What's the point of going on."
  • "Isn't that ironic!"

In the 1580s, English printer Henry Denham invented a "rhetorical question mark" for use at the end of a rhetorical question; however, it died out of use in the 1600s. It was the reverse of an ordinary question mark, so that instead of the main opening pointing back into the sentence, it opened away from it.[1] Events and Trends The beginnings of the Golden Age of Literature in England Sir Humphrey Gilbert claims Newfoundland as Englands first overseas colony in 1583 Francis Drake had come back from going around the world, bringing back with him many treasures. ... Denham was one of the outstanding printers of the sixteenth century. ...

Some have adapted the question mark into various irony marks, but these are very rarely seen. The Irony mark (؟) (French: point d’ironie) is a punctuation mark that purports to indicate that a sentence should be understood at a second level. ...


  • "How can people have hope when we tell them that they have no recourse, if they run afoul of the state justice system?" Edward Kennedy, Senate debate on the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, 1968.
  • "Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
    When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
    Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    You all did see that on the Lupercal
    I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
    Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?" William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene 2.

Some rhetorical questions become idiomatic English expressions: Edward Kennedy Edward Moore Ted Kennedy, (born February 22, 1932, in Brookline, Massachusetts) is a Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... The Tragedy of Julius Cæsar, more commonly known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare written in 1599. ... An idiom is an expression (i. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ...

  • "What's the matter with you?"
  • "Don't you know any better?"
  • "Have you no shame?"
  • "Right?!"
  • "What the hell?"
  • " Who the hell?
  • "Do pigs fly?"/"Do fish swim?"/"Can fish drown?"
  • "Are you crazy?"
  • "Who cares?"
  • "How should I know?"
  • "Are you kidding me?"
  • "Isn't that nice?"
  • "But who's counting?"

Some TV shows have had rhetorical questions as titles, such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and Whose Line Is It Anyway?. For the 1956 Cole Porter song, see Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (song). ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

As many other expressions, these questions may vary in significance from one language to another or even from one version of a language to another. For example commonly used phrases of American slang may be sometimes confusing to people who may be fluent in English but unfamiliar with the localized meaning. Likewise, an American English speaker may be confused if asked "Are you coming the raw prawn?" which in Australian English has the same meaning as the rhetorical question: "Are you kidding me?". Slang is the use of highly informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speakers dialect or language. ... For other uses, see American English (disambiguation). ... Australian English (AuE, AusE, en-AU) is the form of the English language used in Australia. ...

Bob Dylan's song "Blowin' in the Wind" contains a series of rhetorical questions. This is spoofed in an episode of The Simpsons, in which Homer attempts to quantitatively answer "How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?" This article is about the recording artist. ... Blowin in the Wind is a song written by Bob Dylan, and released on his 1963 album The Freewheelin Bob Dylan. ... Simpsons redirects here. ... Homer Simpson is also a character in the book and film The Day of the Locust. ...

On the BBC comedy quiz show QI, host Stephen Fry once asked panellist Alan Davies, "Is this a rhetorical question?" to which Davies correctly answered "No". For other uses, see Qi (disambiguation). ... Stephen John Fry (born 24 August 1957) is an English comedian, writer, actor, novelist, filmmaker and television personality. ... Alan Davies (born 6 March 1966) is an English comedian and actor best known for starring as Jonathan Creek on the popular TV mystery series of the same name. ...


  1. ^ Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves, 2003. p. 142. ISBN 1-592-40087-6.

See also

Aporia (Greek: : impasse; lack of resources; puzzlement; embarassment ) denotes, in philosophy, a philosophical puzzle or state of puzzlement, and, in rhetoric, a rhetorically useful expression of doubt. ... A figure of speech, sometimes termed a rhetoric, or elocution, is a word or phrase that departs from straightforward, literal language. ... A hypothesis (= assumption in ancient Greek) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. ... A question may be either a linguistic expression used to make a request for information, or else the request itself made by such an expression. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Glossary-r (1208 words)
Rhetoric is the study of the various kinds of forms and impact that utterances have.
Rhetorical questions are frequently used in the Bible.
Note that the ISV nicely restructures the rhetorical question to begin in the form of a statement, "It is written," followed by the question tag, "is it not".
  More results at FactBites »



Share your thoughts, questions and commentary here
Your name
Your comments

Want to know more?
Search encyclopedia, statistics and forums:


Press Releases |  Feeds | Contact
The Wikipedia article included on this page is licensed under the GFDL.
Images may be subject to relevant owners' copyright.
All other elements are (c) copyright NationMaster.com 2003-5. All Rights Reserved.
Usage implies agreement with terms, 1022, m