By Simon Li
We all know about the three appeals: Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Ethos is the appeal to credibility in an argument, Pathos is the appeal to emotion, and Logos is the appeal to logic. These three appeals are the core to any English class you will take – but there is actually a hidden fourth appeal: Bozos.
What exactly is Bozos? We must first look at the root word: bozo. So what is “bozo”? According to Oxford Languages, a bozo is “a stupid, rude, or insignificant person, especially a man”. Thus, we can effectively conclude that the definition of “Bozos” (capitalized) is the appeal to an idiot – the antithesis of logos. To put it simpler, to use Bozos in an argument is to present a claim so insane, outrageous, or stupid that any sane person cannot take it seriously.
The use of Bozos in society has increased exponentially in modern times. One sees Bozos in everyday life – many just don’t notice it (just look at the comments under a hot Facebook post/YouTube video). But how do we apply it?
Let us examine a piece by John Cage – 4’33” – which is 4 minutes and 33 seconds of complete silence. A typical listener wants to hear substance within a piece of music – actual instruments being played and to enjoy the experience. What John Cage does, quite brilliantly, is dispel these types of people from the audience. Using silence, Cage brings forward the “bozos” who think that absolutely nothing could be considered as “music”.
This is, in essence, how the Bozos appeal works.
Let us delve into a more in depth text example from the Onion satirizing the abortion ban in Texas:
Calling the move “’an important step in protecting the unborn,’ Texas lawmakers passed legislation Thursday banning residents’ access to tall staircases in an effort to prevent women with unwanted pregnancies from getting any ideas. ‘We are proud to affirm the sanctity of life with this bill prohibiting anyone in the state from using staircases with over 12 steps,’ said Governor Greg Abbott, confirming that Texans would be required to use an elevator or escalator for all buildings above two stories in an effort to prevent any mothers-to-be from getting it in their heads to try and pull something.”
Have you spotted Bozos yet? If not, one only has to look at this passage: “…banning residents’ access to tall staircases in an effort to prevent women with unwanted pregnancies from getting any ideas”. Referring to the almost total abortion ban enacted in Texas this year, this passage highlights the extreme nature of the Texan legislature by making such a ridiculous and illogical claim. Paired with an objective tone, the author successfully creates Bozos by making this ban, and similar extreme bans from Texas seem crazy and stupid. As a result, the only people who would support such a ban would be the “bozos”.
These are but two examples of Bozos – in the wild, with keen eyes, one can expect to find at least four instances at any given time and place.
As a relatively new appeal, Bozos has yet to gain widespread recognition from teachers of rhetoric. It is quite understandable – society often is reluctant to adapt to change, labeling it as foolish. With enough time however, I am confident that Bozos will become an integral part of English classrooms around the world and join the fraternity of rhetorical appeals as the fourth appeal.