Palindrome (pal’ in drom) – a word, verse, or sentence that is the same when read backwards or forwards.
Madam, I’m Adam.
Able was I ere I saw Elba. (credited to Napoleon)
Parable – a short simple story having a moral or rather obvious symbolical or spiritual meaning; an earthly story with a “heavenly” meaning (the Parables of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, etc.)
Paradox – a seemingly-contradictory statement or situation, which, on closer examination, may prove to be real or true.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
Dickens , A Tale of Two Cities
”The best thing about temptation is yielding to it.”
Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray
Paraphrase – a free rendering of the sense of a passage, usually in the reader’s own words.
Parody – a composition imitating with ludicrous exactness but ordinarily on a ridiculous subject, the style and mannerisms of some serous composition (F.B. White’s “Across the Street and in to the Grill”, a parody of Hemingway’s Across the River and Into the Trees). To enjoy parody, one must be familiar with the original.
Here is the first stanza or Wordsworth’s “She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways”.
“She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove
A Maid when there were none to praise
And very few to love:”
And here is Hartley Coleridge’s parody of it, which makes fun of Wordsworth:
“He lived among the untrodden ways
To Rydal Lake that lead:
A bard whom there were none to praise
And very few to read.”
Pastoral – a term describing a piece of writing dealing with rustic or country life, usually emphasizing a quiet atmosphere (Burns’s “The Cotter’s Saturday Night” and Whittier’s “Snow-Bound”). (See Idyll.)
Pathetic Fallacy – an uncomplimentary term devised by John Ruskin, the Victorian critic and writer, to describe what he felt was an artificial use of personification, or of imputing to inanimate objects’ feelings that they do not possess (the cruel, hungry sea).
Pathos – a feeling or tender sorrow, ordinarily rather temporary and superficial, often accompanied by a sort of melancholy pleasure. It should be distinguished, therefore, from more genuine, deep-seated, and universal emotions. The deaths of Romeo and Juliet represent pathos.
Patois (pa twa or pat wa) a somewhat contemptuous term for a provincial or illiterate dialect (the French patois of New Orleans.
Pentameter – meter of five feet to a line. (See Versification.)
Periodic Sentence – a sentence in which the words are so set down that the meaning is not completed until the end or near the end, and thus the emphasis of the sentence comes at the finish.
Raising his rifle and taking careful aim at the bear, he fired.
(Compare with Loose Sentence.)