Dirimens Copulatio

An Introduction to Dirimens Copulatio

Dirimens Copulatio (etymologically from Latin, literally “separating combination”), is a rhetorical device which consists when we introduce an argumentOpens in new window with one exception to it, and immediately join another after it that seems greater.

By this means, the device simply help creates a balanced argumentOpens in new window by placing two opposing qualifying view points, one after the other. Oftentimes, the qualifying points are accompanied by such clauses like “not only …,” “but also,” “but wait, there is more,” (as often used in info-commercialsOpens in new window) etc.

As George PuttenhamOpens in new window rightfully observed, “the emphasis of the figure, derives its forceful effect from substituting for a concrete quality, that same quality regarded in its universal abstract essence.

One notable means to affect the mind, is to enforce the sense of any thing by a word of more than ordinary efficacy, and nevertheless is not apparent, but as it were, secretly implied, as he that said thus … O sin itself, not wretch, but wretchedness

Whereas if he had said thus … O sinful and wretched man, it had been all to one effect, yet not with such force and efficacy, to speak by the denominative, as by the thing itself.” — (Puttenhan [p. 184])

Classical Examples
  • “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right places, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moments”
    — Benjamin Franklin
  • “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, work, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
    — Maya Angelou.
  • “This poor girl shouldn’t just tell that guy to go jump in a lake, she ought to slash all four of his car tires.”
    — Jodi Picoult, House Rules.
  • “I am not surprised that so many migrants wish to improve their lifestyle by moving to the UK. It is a tribute to my country that they wish to do so. And, if the numbers can be absorbed, we welcome them. But the sheer scale of the influx has put strains on our health, welfare, housing and education services that we struggle to meet – and has held down wages for many of the poorest members of our society.”
    — John Major
Further Readings:
Silver Rhetoricae | Figures: Dirimens CopulatioOpens in new window
Everything2.com | Dirimens CopulatioOpens in new window
Henry Peachum | The Garden of Eloquence: Dirimens CopulatioOpens in new window