One Thousand Dollars

by O. Henry

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Is the phrase "rabbit-foot your right ear" in O. Henry's "One Thousand Dollars" a poetic literary device?

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O. Henry's charming prose-poem "One Thousand Dollars" has in it the line: "Rabbit-foot your right ear a little." This referes to the means in previous eras of applying ladies' face powder, a part of makeup, with a fluffy rabbit foot. In the poem, Gillian is advising his friend, actress Miss Lauriere, that her stage makeup is a trifle imperfect and that she needs a touch more powder on her right ear. She applies the powder with her rabbit's foot and Gillian replies, "That's better."

The use of the compound word "rabbit-foot" is an example of a literary device in the literary technique category (literary element is the other category) and is a figure of speech of the trope category (word scheme is the other category), and it is an example of anthimeria. Anthimeria denotes the use of a word from one word class in an altogether different word class. The most common anthimeria is a noun being used as a verb, which is a usage also called "verbing a noun," which ironically is also an example of anthimeria.

The quote in question fits precisely with the most common kind of anthimeria. The compound word "rabbit foot" in the noun class of words is used by Gillian in a strong suggestion of action to be taken as a verb class word. In other words, the noun "rabbit foot" in used as a verb in "Rabbit-foot your right ear a little." Miss Lauriere exactly undersatnds the anthimeria for she takes up her rabbit foot, dips it in the powder, and applies it to her right ear, precipitating Gillian's reply, "That's better."

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