What type of figure of speech/rhetorical figure are the following:

“You are dearer to me than myself, as you yourself can see.” (Bob Dylan)

“Them I will forget, but you I’ll remember always.” (Bob Dylan)

“I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care.” (Teddy Roosevelt?)

They seem to share the fact that a) they’re comprised of two phrases; b) a word from the first phrase is re-used (maybe slightly altered or a different word that has a very close relationship to the first word) in the second phrase, but the context of the second phrase gives it a new meaning; c) the second phrase relates to/is a response to the first phrase.

Any ideas if this has a formal name? Thanks!

1 Answer 1



“I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care.” (Teddy Roosevelt?)

In a chiasmus the words are repeated in reverse order to achieve a desired effect (there are far too many to list, anything from simply sounding good to emphasizing relationships). Here are some other examples:

"Fair is foul and foul is fair" - Macbeth

"We live in countries where the people own the government and not in countries where the government owns the people" - Churchill

As an aside, Winston Churchill was a master of rhetorical devices and you can find excellent examples, expertly used, in his speeches and writing.


“You are dearer to me than myself, as you yourself can see.” (Bob Dylan)

An isocolon is when words/clauses/sentences are similar in length and parallel in structure. Me/myself in the first clause is matched by the you/yourself in the second clause. Dylan is also using the reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself) to add emphasis: The sentiment he is expressing is between me and you only.

“Then I won’t forget, but you I’ll remember always.” (Bob Dylan)

Is also an example of an isocolon. "I won't forget" is balanced with "I'll remember always"

(The isocolon is the most commonly used rhetorical device, and technically the quote by Roosevelt is also an isocolon.)

  • Thanks @Jos. I was just revisiting this, and noticed a typo in one of the Dylan lines, and we can't have that. The lyric is: "Them I will forget But you I'll remember always"
    – 286642
    Jun 8, 2021 at 19:29
  • Also, I was just looking at the definition of Isocolon on Wikipedia, and it looks like there's some discrepancy there. Wikipedia says: Isocolon is a rhetorical scheme in which parallel elements possess the same number of words or syllables.
    – 286642
    Jun 8, 2021 at 19:32
  • In Dylan's case, the number of syllables/words in each phrase may line up (I haven't counted), but what's more striking is the fact that the same (or at least closely related) words are used in both phrases (forget, remember; myself, yourself)
    – 286642
    Jun 8, 2021 at 19:34
  • Isocolon "of equal members or clauses" "Phrases of approximately equal length and corresponding structure... A narrower definition...calls for the clauses to have the same number of syllables"(all emphasis mine) - A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, Richard Lanham. "In some cases of isocolon the structural match may be so complete that the number of syllables in each phrase is the same; in the more common case the parallel clauses just use the same parts of speech in the same order."(again, emphasis mine) - Classical English Rhetoric, Ward Farnsworth
    – Jos
    Jun 10, 2021 at 17:43

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