Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama

Front Cover
Basic Books, Apr 26, 2016 - Political Science - 336 pages
"An entertaining history of great oratory" and a primer to rhetoric's key techniques(The New Yorker).

In Words Like Loaded Pistols, Sam Leith traces the art of persuasion, beginning in ancient Syracuse and taking us up to the Twitterverse. Along the way, he follows detours as varied and fascinating as Elizabethan England, Milton's Satanic realm, the Springfield of Abraham Lincoln and the Springfield of Homer Simpson. He explains how language has been used by the great heroes of rhetoric (such as Cicero and Martin Luther King Jr.), as well as some villains (like Adolf Hitler and Richard Nixon.) You'll find out how to build your own memory-palace; you'll be introduced to the Three Musketeers: Ethos, Pathos and Logos; and you'll learn how to use chiasmus with confidence and occultation without thinking about it.

Most importantly of all, you will discover that rhetoric is useful, relevant -- and something you can master.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jtck121166 - LibraryThing

A timely, concise and elegant treatment of perhaps the most undeservedly neglected area of literary criticism of all: the vital interface of form and content, whereof meaning and, more importantly, effect are born. Read - and have the scales fall from your eyes. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rivkat - LibraryThing

Mostly entertaining for the examples it offers up, plus a catalog of terms at the end. There’s nothing but rhetoric in our speeches—high, low, or in-between—and that can be a good thing, as long as ... Read full review


Preface to the Paperback Edition
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Abraham Lincoln
Hitler and Churchill

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2016)

Sam Leith is a former literary editor of the Daily Telegraph, and contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal, Prospect, Guardian, Evening Standard, and Spectator. He is the author of How to Write and You Talkin' to Me?, among other books. He lives in London.

Bibliographic information