Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Epanalepsis? Tough break.

So, you won't be surprised to learn that I can't write poems at work. But that's not true, I write all of my poems at work! Fine. But I can't write a poem at work today. Not enough sleep. Too much non-ergonomic and, frankly, pretty Francophone drumming in the Old North French style. Of ROCK.

So, epanalepsis. This was mentioned in a lecture about sentence craft and I did know what it was. I try not to bother you with every word I look up, but this one sounds like a disease of the butt, so it's fair game for LBRTFD --which should probably go, when it's going by letters-only, by its old name of TYDCA.

Epanalepsis is a rhetorical device in which you repeat the words at the beginning of whatever syntactic unit you like at the end of that unit. I wish I didn't have to come up with my own example. Ah, red like a tomato is red. That's a fine example of how epanalepsis can be used to good effect, says the man who just heard of it for the first time half and hour ago.

That's the way to use it elegantly on a small scale, but I'll bet you're familiar with epanalepsis on the grand scale (and I don't mean chronic, malignant epanalepsis of the butt), where a paragraph or a chapter or a whole Proustian Monster Mega Novel ends, sometimes after a colon (not of the butt --and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Comedy Rule of Three), with the same word it began with.

And then there's the practice of using different forms of a word, or words of common origin in an epanaleptic fashion: we'll have athletics for the athlete, mathletics for the mathlete, aesthetics for the aesthete --that sort of thing. This particular device actually has a name of its own, but who cares? Those ridiculous lists of Greek names for rhetorical devices don't help you learn anything. I wish they would teach the devices first and then bring out the names only when we need a short-hand way to talk about the patterns --you know, when you might actually care what they're called. But then some people like to pull fancy-sounding words that nobody else understands out of their butts.

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