There is an interesting plea in the case where Chelsea footballer John Terry is accused of racial abuse.
Terry's no doubt expensive lawyers have come up with the defence that when their client called fellow player Anton Ferdinand black, with the addition of extreme sexual expletives, he was merely using irony.
Without prejudicing any verdict to be delivered by chief magistrate Howard Riddle (great name, by the way, for a judge in a trial with semantics in play) it is clear that footballers regularly use figures of speech.
Such as the metaphor "over the moon". Or is that hyperbole? And the simile "sick as a parrot". The effect of which is ruined when a player says he is "literally as sick as a parrot".
There is no excuse for racial abuse. Not even if dressed up as litotes, a figure of speech with which Terry is undoubtedly familiar. (Sorry, a bit of irony creeping in there.) Litotes is an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite. Like if Terry had come over all litotic and described Ferdinand as not entirely white.
It would be no bad thing for footballers to be epigrammatic in their use of figures of speech.
Oxymoron would be handy in debate over an offside decision with a reference to the linesman's vision. They could also say to the referee: "I protest at that paradoxical penalty presentation" but might get a yellow card for alliteration.
There will be a lot onomatopoeia about. Not to mention antithesis which is the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases, at which most footballers excel.
You will be familiar with tmesis, the linguistic phenomenon in which a word is separated into two parts, with other words occurring in between.
It would be used by a footballer to describe a ruling by the referee as abso-effen-lutely ridicu-effen-lous.
Looking again at the Terry defence of irony, I see no evidence of any use of the word black or extremely offensive bad language to convey the opposite of their usual meaning.
Without prejudice, Terry may have made an assonance of himself.
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