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You Talkin' To Me?
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You Talkin' To Me?

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  494 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
A superb book that traces the art of persuasion from its attic origins to its 21st century apotheosis, telling the story of its villains and heroes and villains, from Hitler to Homer Simpson, Cicero to Elizabeth I, songs by J-Lo and the rhetorical excellence of 'Buy it, Get in, Argos it!'. Learn how to use rhetoric and build your own memory-palace, and use chiasmus and ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published 2011 by Profile Books
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Jan Rice
The author begins with historical framework. Plato hated rhetoric; it paled compared to the pursuits of philosophy. It was for manipulating the masses, and, by the way, he hated democracy, too. He saw it as mob rule, as when it condemned his hero Socrates. The author paints a quick picture of direct democracy in which cases were tried before a crowd (of citizens, of course--landed male heads of household). Aristotle, on the other hand, saw in rhetoric the royal road to what made people tick. ...more
Jul 19, 2013 Dennis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a little too advanced for me. I can get only so much from studying the great speakers that the author used as examples. I did appreciate his explanation of the historical development of rhetoric, however. The stories of Plato and Aristotle were particularly helpful.
Sep 13, 2014 Melora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this for my high school student to read as an “after summer” refresher on persuasive essay writing. It really is perfect for this – it reviews rhetorical techniques and types of speeches/essays in a very entertaining way (though my student probably won't recognize the Yogi Bear/Jellystone Park references, and those to current British politics mostly went over my head as well). Leith provides numerous examples to illustrate the techniques he describes, and his style is conversational and ...more
Jul 15, 2012 Marcos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Brief introduction to the most important science of western civilization, it marks the elegance of language in a clear and appealing way, from the stanzas of poets to the sermons of revolutionary leaders, "words with loaded"is a book that opens the books of Cicero, aristotle, and the many champions of this now illusive and prolific craft.
Clark Hays
Nov 25, 2012 Clark Hays rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rhescuing Rhetoric

Rhetoric has become a dirty word these days. Especially during an election year, “empty rhetoric” gets tossed around a lot by both sides which, as the author points out, is a rhetorical tactic. But Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama by Sam Leith does an admirable job of extracting rhetoric from the trashcan, dusting it off and showing how it is the cornerstone of all good communication, from poetry to fiction and from conversation to, of course, public
Apr 17, 2013 Stevedutch rated it it was amazing
It is likely that many people, at least those for whom English is their first language, will have come across at some time in their lives speeches featuring phrases such as `for the people, by the people, of the people'; `I have come to bury Caesar not to praise him' and `We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender', and so on, and been impressed and possibly moved to ...more
Aug 17, 2015 Frank rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As an apologia for the maligned and under appreciated craft of rhetoric, Sam Leith succeeds in this book in a persuasive argument for recovering this ancient skill. Rising to prominence in Ancient Greek democracy, despite noted detractors including Plato, Rhetoric was enshrined as one of the Liberal Arts. Leith defines Rhetoric as, "the attempt by one him an being to influence man other in words. He goes on to show the promise and the danger of well-chosen words in writing, "Ghandi never picked ...more
Oct 14, 2012 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When you load that pistol, what's the difference between a live round that hits the target and a dud that misses its mark?

Ultimately, I didn't leave with a clear answer to that question. By going over great speeches from history, the author illustrates rhetorical tricks. But there must be plenty of speeches using the various listed techniques that have nevertheless been instantly forgotten. Still, it was interesting to look at great examples, and more practical than some recent psychobabble boo
The American Conservative
'Sam Leith, former literary editor of the Daily Telegraph, novelist, and contributor to the Wall Street Journal and other publications, is cheeky, talented, smart, and a fine and easy writer, intoxicated by words and the way we arrange them to sell, persuade, praise, explain, attack.

In "Words Like Loaded Pistols," he sets out to share his enthusiasm for rhetoric, and, with only an occasional misfire, he succeeds admirably, in large part because of his unflagging good nature and offbeat sense of
Dec 29, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Good general introduction to rhetoric. Leith offers practical tips on public speaking and the uses of rhetoric with examples from Cicero to Obama. He also attempts to come to grips with the fact that rhetoric is a powerful tool that "persuades and cajoles, inspires and bamboozles, thrills and misdirects." He acknowledges that "[r]hetoric's effectiveness is . . . independent of its moral content or that of its users," but argues that "the more good guys get glued into how it works, the better off ...more
Artur Massana
This book has been translated into Spanish and I have just read the Spanish version. I have given it four stars because I think it is a useful first approach to the topic. Sometimes very funny, for instance I laughed a lot with the deep rhetorical analysis of a single song of the film South Park. The only problem I see with this book is that almost all examples are very related to anglosaxon culture and politics. I think the author and translator might have tried to use more local and familiar ...more
Charles Cohen
When I started this, I thought I was buying one book - about the power of rhetoric, and how great speakers create great speeches and so move people - and actually bought something else. Words... has some of that appreciation, but it's also very technical, delving into the more esoteric aspects of rhetoric (of which there are MANY).

But then I realized that all I wanted was a book to help me be a better speech-writer and -giver, and then I settled down and really enjoyed it.
Mar 09, 2016 Sacha rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Impressively unfunny. Rife with already outdated and overwrought pop-culture references, a borderline condescending tone of voice and annoying footnotes created just to make HILARIOUS* comments. The admittedly well-structured and interesting theoretical material collapses under the weight of misguided hipness.

*not actually hilarious, see?
Apr 12, 2015 H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good introduction or review of classic rhetoric by a great fan of the subject. Not a textbook or how-to manual, this book is more about sparking interest and is best when Leith is parsing texts. Rhetoric texts are often dense and staid, but Leith writes with joy and his enthusiasm is infectious. Recommended for anyone with an interest in language.
Erkan Saka
Jul 30, 2012 Erkan Saka rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-theory
Easy read. Refreshes the very basics of rhetoric. It is a good idea to provide portrayals of rhetorical figures from the classics and moderns. In the end, there is a good dictionary of rhetorical concepts. I wish there could be simple explanations of these concepts in the main text itself. The readers needs to go back and forth...
Mar 02, 2014 Hannah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-school
I think this was more of a 2.5 book. There is a lot of good information about rhetoric in this book. Leith makes tons of jokes, too, so he can keep you entertained. I just had a hard time following some of his writing though because sometimes when he inserts jokes, it interrupts the flow of the text.
Margaret Sankey
Just in time for political debates, an entertaining review of rhetorical skills, with lively examples ranging from the frequent use of tricolon in AC/DC songs to "all your base are belong to us" as hypallage or David Lloyd George's fondness for enargia when talking about coal miners.
Brian Mcleish
Feb 27, 2013 Brian Mcleish rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A modern take on an old classic, the rhetoric handbook. Clips along at a good pace and you learn stuff without realising it.
Aug 18, 2015 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rhetoric
I like the topic of rhetoric and this gave a readable overview with some good examples from history.
Jonathan Kerr
May 13, 2014 Jonathan Kerr rated it really liked it
An excellent introduction to the subject of rhetoric, and a good primer. A little light in places, but a book that is easy to read and will fire your interest in this fascinating topic.
Aug 07, 2012 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-teach
I've used selections of this in my current comp class. I like the examples and the clear analysis of rhetoric. A lot better than a standard rhetoric textbook.
Sam Leith's explanation and advice about ethos, logos, and pathos will change your life. And that's not hyperbole.
Michelle Sprouse
Some entertaining anecdotes, but in the end I'm glad I don't reach rhetoric in the classic sense and I still hate politicians.
Mar 23, 2015 Glenn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book, given to me by a student who thought I would appreciate it. Good history, good insights into public speaking and rhetoric.
May 30, 2013 Jamie rated it really liked it
Call me a nerd, but language use is fascinating and this book examines it with insight and humor - British humor.
May 27, 2013 Ollie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good introduction to rhetoric.
May 22, 2013 Abbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found it a great introduction to and, ultimately, summary of rhetoric. Made me chuckle a lot too.
Colin MacDonald
Feb 01, 2014 Colin MacDonald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Great introduction to rhetoric, highly readable and entertaining throughout.
Brian Crawford
Nov 20, 2013 Brian Crawford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent introduction to classical rhetoric and its applications today.
Sep 18, 2012 Celticguardian rated it really liked it
An enjoyable non-academic introduction to rhetoric.
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“Being anti-rhetoric is, finally, just another rhetorical strategy. Rhetoric is what the other guy is doing—whereas you, you’re just speaking the plain truth as you see it.” 0 likes
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