Litotes [lahy-tuh-teez, lit-uh-, lahy-toh-teez]
Litotes are a form of meiosis using a negative statement, such as "Sally is a not unclever, not unattractive and not unpopular young lady."
  • A meiosis is an understatement, the opposite of an exaggeration. An example of meiosis is the reference to the American Civil War and its aftermath as "The Recent Unpleasantness."
Litotes are not uncommon in many forms of literature. They appear not scarcely in Old English literature (especially poetry) and in Icelandic sagas. An example from Beowulf is "That [sword] was not useless."
The English poet Mary Howitt gives us another example of a litote and meosis because the spider's words are an understatement of how much the spider wants the fly to visit (so it can eat the fly). The poem has many understating references as well, including the winding stair (web) and the parlor where food is usually served (in this case the fly will be the food.)
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The Spider and the Fly

Mary Howitt

Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there."

Alliteration is the repetition of a particular sound in literature, usually poetry. Typically, alliteration identifies the similar sounds in the first syllable of words in a sentence or phrase, but can also be used in a broader sense. Alliteration can refer to the same consonant sound (some lambs are namby-pamby), the same vowel sound, called assonance (yellow bread smells) or if you're really daring, both at the same time (Greg let his goat get wet) in the middle of words and sentences.
Alliteration was a significant part of Anglo-Saxon poetry, as early analyses identified five alliterative patterns. All five were based on these principles of Germanic poems:
  • Poetic lines were divided in two by a pause called a caesura.
  • Each half-line contained two stressed syllables.
  • The first stressed syllable of the second half alliterated with one or both of the stressed syllables in the first half.
Accidental alliteration was considered a defect in literature. Even so, outside of literature alliteration was present in Old English times. For instance, the Anglo-Saxon saints Tancred, Tortrhed, and Tova were siblings with similar sounding (alliterative) names.

Greg let his goat get wet.

This is a fairly extreme use of Alliteration.

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