There’s a Name for It

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Have you noticed how so many politicians drone on and on and on and on, frequently using the conjunction and, as I just did, to connect clauses, phrases, and complete (and sometimes incomplete) sentences? Trust me, they do it:

“And just let me add, Ms. Reporter, that we are going to have a budget by next week, and some people have said we won’t have one until September, and I know they are skeptical, and I want to reassure you that the American people won’t be willing to wait that long, and you’ll see how efficiently Congress can work.”

Wake up, please, just long enough for me to tell you that using a conjunction repetitively is a figure of speech called polysyndeton.  You will probably forget that Greek word in about 15 seconds, as will I, but we can at least recognize that poly means many, as in many, many ands, ors, buts, fors, and yets.

Sloppy speech and writing result from lazy thinking. It really is a good idea to choose your words carefully before committing them to the screen or the airwaves.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.”

This quotation is variously attributed to Lincoln, Voltaire, Mark Twain, Samuel Johnson, and that most prolific of authors, Anonymous.

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3 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

3 responses to “There’s a Name for It

  1. If used sparingly or in the right place or as part of a glowing style, polysyndeton can be very effective. I think one of my rhetoric books said: the Bible is polysyndeton, Shakespeare is asyndeton. But I agree: droning on and on and on … that’s tedious! 🙂

    • I agree with you that in certain places polysyndeton can be effective. However, when I wrote that post I was thinking primarily of bloviating politicians inundating with it. Coming from their mouths—not so much!

      Glad to hear from you. I thoroughly have enjoyed exploring your blog.

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