Tuesday, January 20, 2009


As Geoff Nunberg pointed out, Obama's speech has a rather neat example of polyptoton:
The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

I knew I'd used this word somewhere and forgotten what it meant. Sure enough, Windows search yielded an old "Grammar of English" assignment on Faulkner that I can no longer decipher:
I wrote about the polysyndeton in (2) last time; along with the lack of punctuation and the doubling of nouns and verbs, it conveys a sense of breathless and somewhat confused excitement. There are several parallel items in this list, but isocolon has been avoided, sometimes by introducing additional words (e.g. shoats and grown pigs and even calves) in order to vary the rhythm. The polyptoton of “shotgun” and “shots” is also in the spirit of this near- but not-quite repetition, which creates the heavy, but not monotonous or sing-song, rhythm of the list.


Grobstein said...

Allow me a slant-polyptoton:
"The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the preposterous."

Zed said...

But that, though felicitously put, is patently false.