In Brief

Figure of speech. Lenehan's transformation of the newsboys' "footsteps" into "feetstoops" is consistent with other verbal tricks that he performs in Aeolus, and with the entire chapter's manipulations of language, but it cannot really be characterized as a rhetorical device. It is perhaps best described as a kind of anagram.

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An anagram (AN-uh-gram, from Greek ana- = anew, backwards + gramma = letter) rearranges the letters of a word or phrase to make a new word or phrase, ideally one which somehow comments on the original. A quick search of internet sites will turn up dozens of good examples: "dirty room" for "dormitory," "elegant man" for "a gentleman," "Old West action" for "Clint Eastwood," and "I'll make a wise phrase" for "William Shakespeare."

Lenehan's witticism does not quite play by the rules, since it adds an extra "e," but both Gilbert and Seidman identify it as an anagram. It might alternatively be classed as metathesis, like "Clamn dever," but metathesis produces only variant spellings of a word or phrase, not two different meanings, and "feetstoops" arguably does produce an entirely new word. Seidman finds a second instance of anagram later in Aeolus, when Lenehan wishes for "a fresh of breath air," but this is surely wrong, as no transposition of letters is involved. Instead Lenehan has transposed entire words––performing metathesis on a bigger scale, as it were.

If Joyce did intend "feetstoops" as a kind of anagram, he was expanding his category of verbal constructs beyond the lexicon of the ancient rhetoricians. Some French writer coined the term anagramme in the 16th century. The OED records its earliest English usage in George Puttenham's The Arte of English Poesie (1589): "Of the Anagrame, or poesie transposed." In The Silent Woman (1616), Ben Jonson made a more descriptive reference to the device: "Who will...make anagrammes of our names."

JH 2023
Source: www.grammarly.com.
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