Brexit promise: frictionless trade. Brexit reality: tradeless friction

This often appears in the internet discussions on Brexit. Is there a more specialized term to describe this specific kind of wordplay?

  • 4
    Antimetabole Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 10:54
  • 4
    @GarethRees. That one word Comment should be turned into an Answer (even if it's only one word). Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 14:35

1 Answer 1


According to Baldick's and Cuddon's dictionaries of literary terms, this is an antimetabole. Cuddon's definition goes as follows:

The repetition of words in successive clauses, in reverse grammatical order.

Cuddon provides the following example from Samuel Johnson's The Rambler (156, emphasis mine):

It ought to be the first endeavour of a writer to distinguish nature from custom, or that which is established because it is right, from that which is right only because it is established; (...)

Baldick points out that antimetabole is a sub-type of chiasmus and gives the following example:

All for one, and one for all.

The Algemeen letterkundig lexicon (in Dutch) points out that the antimetabole expresses an antithesis by means of a chiasm. The phrases "frictionless trade" and "tradeless friction" are antithetical; so are the terms "promise" and "reality" in the context of the given quote.


  • Baldick, Chris: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Second edition. Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Cuddon, J. A.: The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. Third edition. Penguin 1992.
  • dbnl: Algemeen letterkundig lexicon (containing 4,600 terms, in Dutch).

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