Ethos, Logos, and Pathos Walk Into a (Senior) Bar…

Rhetorical strategies are all around you. Sometimes they hold meetings on Tuesdays.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Do you know what they mean by ‘linguistic paradox’ on this question set?” You’re on your way to an AA meeting, a flyer in your hand with no detail other than “you’ll be convinced you had fun,” when you overhear two people in the Junior atrium.

“No. Well, linguistics is pasta, right? Maybe start from there,” someone replies. There’s a bit of a pause. “Do the answers feel like common sense to you, or are you just choosing based on vibes?”

“Both. Did you know…‘argle-bargle’ is a word in the English language?”


“They’re going to ask you if the best way to describe a sentence is ‘lackadaisical argle-bargle’. Argle-bargle. Bargle-argle. Arg–”

You keep walking. It’s the AA interest meeting, and you’d hate to be late. What if there are snacks?

There are three people, presumably the leaders of this club, facing a small crowd of visitors. The first one to speak is the one wearing a sticker that reads, “I just donated blood, be nice to me!”

“So you might have heard of us already. I know you might’ve been expecting something a little different from an AA meeting, but here are three reasons why you should listen to us. First, we–”

“WE HAVE SNACKS!” screams another in a SING! hoodie.

“And-if-you-stay-until-the-end-we-have-a-special-surprise-for-you,” they say giddily. At this, people sitting at classroom desks while eating the provided Oreos cheer. 

The blood donor pipes up again. “So, my name is Ethan. Some people call me Ethos? This club has already gotten over 70 members on StuyActivities, and Principal Yu said the work we do here is ‘more important than ever before’.” Ethan looks pretty happy with this introduction. “LEGOs, do you want to introduce the club name?”

The third person, named LEGOs, steps forward. “We thought ‘AA’ as an acronym was pretty clever. If you follow my logic, it’s an analogy for the sound your back makes after sitting in a creaky chair for a few hours writing free-response questions: you hear the “AAA” echo on. A bit like running out of a triple-A battery and developing carpal tunnel. Anyway, “AA” stands for… ‘Aristotelian Appeals,’ in this case. Questions? Comments? Quandaries?” 

There’s an awkward silence in the classroom. “Oh okay, maybe not!” SING! Hoodie laughs nervously. “But I bet you want to hear the story about how we convinced someone at the senior bar to break their phone to see what would happen. If you don’t remember, there was fire EVERYWHERE. The school was going to explode, and people were nearly passing out from the smoke before everyone could evacuate. Someone had to escape through a window.” Seeing the fear in the crowd, she smiles and says, “My name is Pathy—like Kathy, but with a ‘P’. I’m kind of a pathological li–”

Someone in the audience clears their throat. They stand up, and there’s a mischievous glint in their eyes when they say, “Hi. My name is Mentos. I have this three-liter bottle of soda here.” Sure enough, they extract a bottle from their back pocket. “If you’re so good at convincing people, can you convince me not to make all of this Coca-Cola explode over everyone? I have a really quick way to do it before you can even say ‘parallel syntax’.”

“Do you have Pepsi instead?” You ask Mentos, curious to see what he’ll respond with. Mentos doesn’t answer you. 

“Sorry everyone, let me explain what’s going on,” says Ethan. “He’s not actually going to do anything with all that soda you decided to buy. Mentos is just really upset that we kicked him out of our band. He kind of seems like someone who listens to Infowars, I won’t lie.” Ethan goes up to Mentos and starts to escort him out. “But it was nice of you to bring something to share for our meeting!”

But Pathy isn’t letting this fly. “You think you’re better than us, trying to scare us with Coke? It must have been so difficult to carry that around in your pocket all day. Did they let you bring that into the sixth-floor gym for AP Psych? What if they canceled your score because they thought you copied answers into the soda?”

Mentos is unfazed. They start to open the bottle. People start hiding under tables and covering their ears. Someone removes their glasses and holds out their water bottle. Another person just opens their mouth. You’re watching all of this with a bit of glee. You were really excited for the school’s first Alcoholics Anonymous, but it’s nice to see that people prioritize good alternative beverages in this environment despite these people having nothing to do with sobriety and all that good stuff.

LEGOs puts out a hand to stop Mentos. “Wait! If you shake it first, it’ll make it more exciting. And that’s what you want, isn’t it? Isn’t that the most logical thing to do in this situation?” He crosses his arms. “Can you even explain what your exigence for this is?”

“You should listen to him,” says Ethan. “He was really good at chem.” A thought strikes him. “And you should listen to me because–”

“WHAT IS YOUR EXIGENCE?” Pathy has come up to Mentos and begun to shake him pleadingly.

“You’re not convincing at all,” Mentos says. “None of you. I feel like I’m being manipulated?” 

Pathy, Ethan, and LEGOs all look like they’ve been punched in the face at this accusation. “Manipulated? That hurts my feelings,” Pathy says.

“No, he’s right,” says LEGOs. “I feel like you’re always playing with my heart. I don’t like to be played with,” he continues, though named after a popular and timeless children’s toy.

But Mentos cuts them off before their relationship troubles are too aired out. “If I were Aristotle, I’d rename you gaslight, globalization, and gerrymander. That’s another vocab word for you all.” With that, Mentos jumps into the soda bottle, and you watch the shower with inexpressible joy.