Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Part Two: Healthy Cocoa and Christian Theology

A Healthy Turning Point
            A few years ago my gluttonous candy habit caught up to me and ruined my health, so I had to eliminate sugar (by which I mean sucrose) from my diet.  As I contemplated the sobering reality that I might never be able to eat chocolate again if I wanted to stay alive, I felt weepy.
            One maudlin day I picked up a container of Hershey’s cocoa powder and sadly looked it over as if preparing to bid adieu to an old friend.  I knew that the troika of taste also constituted the triumvirate of evil—salt, fat, and sugar—so I checked for these three monsters of death as I examined the list of ingredients on the “Nutrition Facts” label.
            Before I reached the troika, however, my dolorous eyes stumbled across some interesting information.
            As a preliminary matter, I saw the serving size—one tablespoon.  I made a mental note.
            Not far below that, I read the line containing the calorie information:
                        “Calories 10 . . . Calories from Fat 5”
            Really?  Only ten calories per tablespoon?  That was nothing compared to the exorbitant calorie counts for my favorite confections.  Suddenly the firm steel of my curiosity struck a single vigorous blow against the hard flint of my despondency, and a spark of defiant hope leaped out of my gloomy heart to cast an optimistic challenge into the teeth of darkness.
            I read further.
            “Total Fat 0.5 g
                        “Saturated Fat 0 g
                        “Trans Fat 0 g”
            What the—?   Cocoa powder was almost a fat-free food?  Another spark flew.
            But I thought chocolate was fattening.  Confused and disoriented, yet wanting to believe, I read more.
            “Cholesterol 0 mg”
            Interesting.  Not a member of the troika, but cholesterol was bad, right?  So no cholesterol must be good, right?  More sparks.  I feared my rising hopes, yet I could not suppress them as my eyes moved down the list.
            “Sodium 0 mg”
            Unbelievable.  A green light on two out of three demons in the troika.  Surely I would strike out on the third.  I swallowed my trepidation and continued to read.
            “Sugars 0 g”
            Really!  And the word was “sugars,” not just “sugar,” so that label excluded not only sucrose, but also fructose, glucose, lactose, galactose, etc.—the whole criminal gang!  Though in truth, only sucrose was killing me.  I mention the others merely to point out that cocoa powder contained no sugars of any kind.

            I could hardly believe my eyes.  A tablespoon of this cocoa powder included even two grams of dietary fiber.  Nutrition ignoramus though I was, even I knew that fiber was good for you.  By now my sizzling soul was churning out hopeful sparks with feverish intensity.
            Gobsmacked and giddy, I felt like slapping my thigh and crying out a la Jed Clampett in a protracted, high-pitched whine, “W-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ll doggy!”  I might have even heard “Ode to Joy” echoing nostalgically somewhere inside my head.
            At this moment, the scintillating spray of hopeful sparks landed smack dab in the middle of the pressurized oxygen cloud of my repressed cocoa lust, and the flames of passion raged again as an explosion of divine light flooded my narrow mind and lifted my simple heart from despair to euphoria.
            A true epiphany burst upon me as my brain for the first time made a meaningful distinction between chocolate and cocoa.  I realized afresh what I had probably already known but had not ascribed much significance to, namely that cocoa represented but an ingredient of chocolate, and the cocoa bore no fault for making chocolate unhealthy.  The blame belonged primarily to the sugar, mixed in to sweeten the bitter cocoa.  But the sugar was adventitious to pure cocoa.  It was, in fact, a profane pollution, a sick and twisted sacrilege.
            I grant that raw, unprocessed cocoa is indeed fattening, which could cause health problems for some, but in my case, the major harm from chocolate came not from the fat, but only from the sugar.
            In somber Manichaean reflection about my sugar trouble and my insatiable love for cocoa, I pondered deeply, humbly, and sincerely.  Eventually I drew some irrefutable philosophical conclusions that would have made even Socrates proud and someday will undoubtedly revolutionize Christian theology.
            Sugar is bad.
            Cocoa is good.
            Sugar is evil and comes from the devil.
            Cocoa is sublime and comes from heaven, which is why it is rightly described as the food of the gods.  Even science acknowledges the divinity of cocoa by giving the cocoa tree the taxonomic designation Theobroma cacao, the genus name coming from the Greek words theos, meaning “god,” and broma, meaning “food.”
            Sugar exemplifies the devil appearing as an angel of light: filled with sweetness, sugar presents itself as desirable, but in fact causes pain and harm, bondage and degeneration.
            Cocoa represents a true manifestation of divine grace, for although it is bitter to the taste, it engenders wholesome pleasure and health, freedom and rejuvenation.
            The forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden must have been loaded with sugar, for its specious sweetness caused the fall of humanity—in sharp contrast to the exalting bitter fruit of the paradisiacal cocoa tree of life.
            And that pretty much sums it up: sugar is death; cocoa is life.
            What joy returned to my existence as I learned that cocoa is actually healthy.  It could still be a part of my diet.
            Thus my soul had been dead, but was alive again!
            All I needed was to find an alternative to sugar to sweeten my precious cocoa.  Eventually I settled on raw honey.  Problem solved.

            The cocoa consumption resumed promptly.  I experimented with cocoa in various forms, and ultimately I resorted to a beverage, hot cocoa, as my preferred delivery system when I needed a hit.
            Little did I realize then that I was not the first to hit upon the health benefits of cocoa, which subject I will take up in my next blog post.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Part One: A Chocoholic and His Drinking Problem
by Aaron Jordan

The chocolate sweet, with languid rapture
Glides across my lips.
But swallowed, it my soul will capture
And supersize my hips.
Since cocoa be the food of love, eat on.
* * *
Introductory Note
            In this essay, I usually avoid using the word cacao, a term with Spanish origins that is a synonym of cocoa and appears on many cocoa products.  I generally use the term cocoa to refer to the core substance within the cocoa bean, but this use does not exclude more specific meanings, such as the cocoa bean itself or derivatives of cocoa like cocoa powder and so-called cocoa solids.  Sometimes I use cocoa more loosely to refer to the hot beverage made from cocoa.  I believe my intended meaning is clear from the context in each instance, so I will not get too technical in my cocoa terminology unless I have to for the sake of clarity.
            And now, for you romantic and giddy chocolate-lovers, without further adieu, I invite you to indulge yourselves.
* * *
 A Madcap Love Triangle
            Most days I drink over forty-eight ounces of hot cocoa.  That’s six cups.  Sometimes I drink less.  Sometimes I guzzle half a gallon or more.
            Because like many hot-blooded, cardiovascular manly types, I possess the wisdom of the Kuna.  More on this later.
            Also because I cannot feel normal otherwise.  Without this bosom friend, a tension worse than bachelorhood augments within my soul.  The pressure propagates, the nerves grow jittery, the obsession mounts.  Sooner or later, and preferably sooner, a valve must open, a spigot must pour forth that sweet divine elixir, that lofty brown ambrosia filled with placid dreams and restful bliss.
            You know those medical bracelets for diabetics?  I think I need one of those, but with special instructions to any medical personnel who might find me unconscious that I hereby and forthwith command them to immediately set up an IV and start a slow but steady drip of the melted raw insides of pure, unprocessed cocoa beans directly into my thirsty veins.  A thousand cc’s of liquid cocoa, in the raw, stat!
            By now you will probably not be surprised to learn that at least one of my relatives was an alcoholic.
            But cocoa is not alcohol, and I prefer to think that I do not have a problem.  Not anymore, anyway.  Some tastes transcend denial.  Like any gluttonous American patriot reeling from his heart-killing food habits, I cry out in the spirit of Patrick Henry, “If this be addiction, make the most of it!”
            On a more serious note, as I sit here in the quietude of my writerly man cave, pondering with sober gravitas how best to summarize my sentiments, I suddenly hear within my long-disturbed mind a clarion voice of madness calling out encouragement, booming out an enthusiastic cheerleading cry:
                        Who needs lousy counterfeits like crummy LSD?
                        I need only C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E!
            Unlike alcoholism, my drinking problem happens to be good for me.

            Now pause with me, dear reader, for a reverent moment of ardent prayer.
            O mighty goddess rich with life, enfold me in thy loving arms, enshroud me in thy warm embrace, and carry to arcadia my tired, weary spirit.  With every sip, I take into my wounded heart a mystery, yet somehow like a doting mother thou art always there for me.  Fly into my soul, o cherub of chocolate, o seraph of sweetness, o teraph of tasty temptation, with healing in thy powdered wings, and hear my anguished cries: Make me whole!  Make me a man again!
            Is there no balm in Gilead?
            There is, and its name is cocoa.
            How else can I escape this painful world?
            Perhaps within the tender arms of the true goddess of my passions, my faithful, lovely wife, into whose soft blue eyes I peer like some poor sailor seeking sunken treasure deep within the ocean.
            Yet with the exception of my wife, a beautiful woman can be easily ignored.
            But a cup of cocoa?
            Though I am legally wedded only to my voluptuous and sultry wife, as I turn my discursive reflections from my marital love for her toward my compulsive romantic infatuation with cocoa, I feel as though I am married to both, and the bonds of that luscious love triangle fortify me.  My wife without, my drink within, I stand intoxicated and inoculated, fully medicated and ready to do battle against a cold, harsh, indifferent world, hopeful and optimistic that I can bring some measure of peace and comfort to oppressed and suffering wayfarers who cross my quotidian path.  My Venus and my Demeter join forces to make me a happiness guru.
            In magnitude and intensity, my love for my wife outshines my love for cocoa, but the two passions nevertheless compare.  They sometimes reinforce each other, and perhaps at times I teeter on conflating them.  More on that toward the end.
            In this essay I touch but lightly on my marital bliss and focus primarily on the mysterious puissance of cocoa’s irresistibility.
            Before I switched to drinking inordinate amounts of hot cocoa, I sometimes overindulged myself in fine chocolates.  I remember all too well the unfathomable ecstasy.  My favorites were creams.  Not tawdry creams with crystallized insides, though I ate and relished even these when no other viable options presented themselves.  Instead, I coveted and savored the high-class, velvety, expensive stuff, the Lamborghini lozenges that transported me with humming high-toned engines into the regal realm of chocolate aristocracy.  Those royal culinary jewels told me that by eating them, I stood out from the herd—that I was better than other people.  I had risen above lesser mortals, those crass commoners snorting over their Snickers bars and forking out chump change for crinkle-wrapped candy riffraff on sale in bulk at ordinary grocery stores.  I often ate that stuff too, of course, but not on those special occasions when my refined, cosmopolitan palate demanded something more celestial.  Sometimes snobbery ranks a virtue . . . at least for a world-class hedonist.
            I would gently place upon my eager tongue a lemon cream robustly drenched in rich milk chocolate.  Or a strawberry cream, or orange, or mint, or caramel, or fudge, or coconut, or maple, or even raspberry.  What did it matter?  All were bathed, clothed, and sanctified in angelic robes of purest chocolate.  As the sublime savor filled my mouth, the unrelenting pleasure obliterated any guilt I might have felt at the money I had spent on these confectionary gems.  But I rarely purchased expensive candy, so this kind of guilt seldom posed a problem.
            Fine chocolates by a hundred times surpassed the blue-collar candy bars I usually stuffed my face with.  Often I did not even chew the creams that I loved, but let them rest in splendid chocolate decadence behind my hot lips, where they slowly thawed upon my titillated taste buds.  I leisurely slid my tongue around each candy’s underside in a circular motion, massaging the chocolate as it melted into a rich, thick, smooth, silky liquid that emanated pleasure so divine as to strike the mortal mind as otherworldly.  Soon the chocolate would dissolve, and the exquisite fruity aroma of the creamy filling would expand throughout my mouth and into my nasal passages.
            Needless to say, involuntary and profuse salivation continued and intensified.
            If chocolate addicts are not careful, they can find themselves moaning incoherently while reveling in such a choco-sugar-acid trip.  When I was drooling in hypnotic stupors of this kind, I would not have been surprised to hear heavenly choirs of angels erupt with glorious singing into Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
            A physiologist or medical doctor might speculate that what I experienced resulted from a flood of dopamine inundating the caudate portion of the basal ganglia in my overgrown and probably unhealthily mutated nucleus accumbens.
            Oh, these scientists!  Such myopic materialists!  They strain at physical gnats and swallow metaphysical camels.
            By the way, Einstein, hands off my ventral tegmental area—I ride the merry-go-round of this cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical loop all by me onesy.  And whatever you do, please do not impede the flow of cocoa-stimulated dopaminergic input—it’s something I just have to have.
            I am no scientist, but I can tell you in one word what I experienced from chocolate—nirvana.  With languid rapture I floated to another world, a bodily but out-of-body experience.  Like Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I stretched out my hand and extended my finger until it touched the finger of a supernatural being, and a brilliant light flooded my modest universe on contact, like the bright flash of a little ball of plutonium suddenly energized by a prompt-critical excursion.  Except I was not touching the finger of any real deity, but was paying humble homage to my imaginary cocoa gods, and they were showering me with rich rewards.
            Or so it seemed.
            (To be continued . . . )

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Русский Scrabble в День Благодарения

День Благодарения.  Жена против мужа.  Первые три хода она использует все свои буквы, получая при этом бонус в 50 очков каждый раз.  Неслыхано!  Счет после четвертого хода: 307 против 100.  Но я знал с первого хода, что у меня нет шансов на победу.  Я ждал горького конца, и после шестнадцатого хода, он пришел как палач после приговора.

Жена504.  Я—277.

Раньше она обычно побеждала только по-русски, а я по-английски.  Но недавно она стала настоящим русским террором для всех своих американских родственников, беспощадно громя нас и на нашем родном языке, даже в Super Scrabble.  Нет никакого уважения к местным жителям.  Пожалуй надо конфисковать ее грин-карту.

Как я могу показаться в общественности?  И что делать с такой женой?

Любить.  Хвалить.  Восхищаться.  Любоваться.  И смиренно проглотить свое жалкое мужское эго.

Моей лучшей половине я говорю: молодец!  Ты лучше всех!

Только не зазнайся.  Я намерен консультироваться с Ожеговым.  Берегись нашей следующей встречи!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Super Scrabble and the Marital Discord It Threatens

            Final scores: AJ 433; mom 278; brother 273; wife 271; aunt 248.  I post the one I won, and let us not remember how mom slaughtered her oldest son and only sister last week, or how the lovely wife demolished Hubbaliciamous and some of his closest relations a week or two before that, etc.  Perhaps I should retire right now on this lexical high note before I meet a vengeful uxorodespotism in the near future.  How Super Scrabble sweetens family life when the muse of verbal virtuosity exclusively enchants your mind to vex with verbal virulence your otherwise lucid loved ones!
            But gloat I shan'tI shall beware of any boorish boasting, for the Scrabble-babble bell shall toll for me soon enough.  My pulchritudinous and brainy better half will see to that!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Cocoa Comfort

O Cozy Cocoa, Comfort Me!
(An Ode to My Drinking Problem)

A numinous and noble nectar pours
Into my mighty merry cocoa mug,
A sweet and happy mead of sorts that scores
Perfection as intoxicating drug.
The cherubim, chockfull of chocolate,
Such chubby children, cheerful and divine,
Make heaven’s happiness to percolate
Throughout my heart with ecstasy sublime.
The frothy foam  adorns my luscious lips
As I with bliss imbibe into my soul
That potion which for anyone who sips
Its silky sweetness makes the spirit whole.
I pray, sweet cozy cocoa, comfort me!
Imbue my soul with sweet serenity.

2017.10.07 © Aaron Jordan

Friday, September 8, 2017


Epistrophe!  Epistrophe!  Not Dystrophy!  Epistrophe!

Epistrophe is, at least in theory, as simple as anaphora.  Whereas anaphora repeats beginnings, epistrophe repeats endings.  (The blog post about anaphora can be found here.)  In practice, however, epistrophe can be more subtle.

The OED, whose definition for anaphora is mysteriously unhelpful, does better with epistrophe: “The repetition of a word at the end of successive clauses or sentences.”[1]

Merriam-Webster does even better: “repetition of a word or expression at the end of successive phrases, clauses, sentences, or verses especially for rhetorical or poetic effect.”  The example cited is Lincoln’s “of the people, by the people, for the people.”[2]  (This is also an example of asyndeton, which is discussed here.)

The final sentence of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address contains both anaphora (via the word “that”) and epistrophe (via the phrase “the people”): “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”[3]

If you are asking how the phrase “the people” constitutes epistrophe when it does not come at the end of the sentence, the answer is that it comes at the end of three successive prepositional phrases within the sentence.  A measure of flexibility and imagination is usually a good idea when dealing with literary devices, because the language of words is usually not as precise as the mathematical language of numbers.

Epistrophe tends to be less obvious than anaphora, in large part because anaphora, with its pattern of repetitions hitting the reader up front at the beginning of successive clauses or phrases, tends to jump out right away, whereas epistrophe has to wait its turn until the end.  Moreover, perhaps for the same reason, epistrophe sometimes seems more embedded or camouflaged amid preceding and/or surrounding words than does anaphora.

Anaphora is the point man, the guy out front, the person we encounter first, the one who leads the charge.  Epistrophe is the guy bringing up the rear, the poor schlub who is more easily overlooked.  And often epistrophe seems to come in the murky middle of things rather than at the clear end.

Here are some examples of epistrophe.

Example #1:
“. . . he hath put it into my heart to say unto this people that the sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people.  Yea, heavy destruction awaiteth this people, and it surely cometh unto this people, and nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, who surely shall come into the world, and shall suffer many things and shall be slain for his people.”  (Helaman 13:5–6, Book of Mormon.)

(Note that the first two instances of “this people,” occurring as they do within the same sentence, could also be characterized as an example of mesoteleuton, which is the repetition of a word or phrase at the middle and end of a sentence.  Note also how the single word “people” at the very end of the passage does not resonate the way the phrase “this people” does.)

Example #2:
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  (1Corinthians 13:11, KJV.)  (Also asyndeton here.)

Example #3:
“Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.”  (2 Corinthians 7:2, KJV.)  (Also asyndeton here.)

Example #4:
“And said, O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?”  (Judges 21:3, KJV.)

Example #5:
“For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.”  (2 Nephi 32:8, Book of Mormon.)

Example #6:
“Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.”  (Alma 11:42, Book of Mormon.)

Example #7:
“And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they . . .”  (Mosiah 18:30, Book of Mormon.)  (Some asyndeton here as well.)

Example #8:
“. . . a people which I knew not shall serve me.  Strangers shall submit themselves unto me: as soon as they hear, they shall be obedient unto me.”  (2 Samuel 22:44–45, KJV.)

Example #9:
“. . . and they called the land Helam.  And it came to pass that they did multiply and prosper exceedingly in the land of Helam; and they built a city, which they called the city of Helam.”  (Mosiah 23:19–20, Book of Mormon.)

Example #10:
“And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing?  And now I come to that faith, of which I said I would speak; and I will tell you the way whereby ye may lay hold on every good thing.  For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing.  (Moroni 7:20–22, Book of Mormon.)

Example #11:
“For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me.  But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.”  (Doctrine and Covenants 124:30–31.)  (Note that the phrase “to build a house to me” also occurs in verse 33.  Note further the multiple repetitions of the phrase “acceptable to/unto me” in verses 30–37.)

Example #12:
“And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free.”  (Mosiah 5:8, Book of Mormon.)

Example #13:
And it came to pass that we did go up to battle against the Lamanites; and I, even I, in my old age, did go up to battle against the Lamanites.”  (Mosiah 10:10, Book of Mormon.)

Example #14:
“Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God.”  (Mosiah 16:5, Book of Mormon.)

Example #15:
“I say unto you, unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off.”  (Mosiah 27:27, Book of Mormon.)

Example #16:
“. . . and it was a cause of much affliction to the church; yea, it was the cause of much trial with the church.”  (Alma 1:23, Book of Mormon.)

Example #17:
“And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; . . .”  (Ether 4:8, Book of Mormon.)

Example #18:
“And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord . . .” (1 Samuel 2:1, KJV.)  (Note also verses 31 and 32, where the phrase “that there shall not be an old man in thine house” is repeated, though it is not the cleanest example.)

Example #19:
“Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness.  Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.  And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.  (Alma 41:10–11, Book of Mormon.)

(This is not the best example because of the clauses intervening between the second and third occurrences of “happiness,” but the first and second occurrences are a clean example.  Note also that the third occurrence of “happiness” qualifies as epanalepsis, because it constitutes a repetition of a word after intervening matter.)

Example #20:
“For I will, saith the Lord, that they shall hide up their treasures unto me; and cursed be they who hide not up their treasures unto me; for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous; and he that hideth not up his treasures unto me, cursed is he, and also the treasure, and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land.”  (Helaman 13:19, Book of Mormon.)  (The first two occurrences are the cleanest part of this example.)

Example #21:
“When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.  When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.  When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.  (Deuteronomy 24:19–21, KJV.) 
(This is not the cleanest example.  The first occurrence does not come at the end of sentence.  Moreover, the three occurrences represent complete independent clauses in and of themselves rather than words or phrases occurring at the end of successive clauses.  The repetition here feels like a Hebrew poetic style rather than a typical figure of speech at the sentence level.  But the example illustrates the principle, especially if we are flexible in applying that principle.)

Example #22:
“O Israel, trust thou in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.  O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.  Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.”  (Psalms 115:9–11, KJV.) 

(This example is problematic, just like Deuteronomy 24:19–21, because entire independent clauses are being repeated, and it feels like a Hebrew poetic style, but the example still illustrates the general principle of repetition at the end.  Note also the first part of the third sentence: “Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord . . .”  This also qualifies as epistrophe, because the phrase “the Lord” comes at the end of two successive clauses, one subordinate, the other independent—which means that we have in Psalms 115:9–11 an epistrophe within an epistrophe.  Note also the clause “but in the name of the Lord will I destroy them” at the end of three successive verses in Psalms 118:10–12, KJV.)

[1] "epistrophe, n.". OED Online. June 2017. Oxford University Press. (accessed September 08, 2017).
[2] Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (CD-ROM).

Saturday, September 2, 2017


            Anaphora is defined in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as “repetition of a word or expression at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, sentences, or verses especially for rhetorical or poetic effect.”  An example is Lincoln’s statement, “we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground.”[1]

            This is one case where the OED definition is not helpful: “The repetition of the same word or phrase in several successive clauses.”[2]  That definition is too broad.  It would apply to various figures of speech, including anaphora, epistrophe, mesodiplosis, conduplicatio, repetitio, symploce, and arguably others.

            Anaphora is so straightforward that little commentary is necessary.  A writer might choose to use anaphora for the same reasons that a writer might use any form of repetition: to create emphasis, to set up a parallel structure, to make an idea more memorable, to establish a rhythm or a mood, to achieve an effective sound, to connect otherwise disparate ideas by anchoring them to a common introductory word or phrase, or simply to apply a particular style or a method of organization.

            Anaphora in the Scriptures

            Anaphora abounds in the scriptures.  Following are salient examples.

            Example #1:
            “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
            Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
            Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
            Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
            Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
            Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
            Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
            Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
            Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”  (Matthew 5:3–11, KJV.)  (Note also the parallelism and the use of mesodiplosis with the word “for,” especially in the phrase “for they.”)

            Example #2:
            “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, KJV.) (Note the use of antithesis in the contrasting pairs.)

            Example #3:
            “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.”  (Zephaniah 1:15–16, KJV.)

            Example #4:
            “And it came to pass that I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof. And it came to pass after I saw these things, I saw the vapor of darkness, that it passed from off the face of the earth; and behold, I saw multitudes who had not fallen because of the great and terrible judgments of the Lord.  And I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them.  And I also saw and bear record that the Holy Ghost fell upon twelve others; and they were ordained of God, and chosen.”  (1 Nephi 12:4–7, Book of Mormon.)

            Example #5:
            “Ye say that this people is a free people.  Behold, I say they are in bondage.  Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true.  Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.  Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent.  Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.  And ye also say that Christ shall come.  But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ.  And ye say also that he shall be slain for the sins of the world—”  (Alma 30:24–26, Book of Mormon.)  (Note the use of antithesis and parallelism.  This passage could be characterized as an example of two instances of anaphora alternating with each other.)

            Example #6:
            “If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb; And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”  (Doctrine and Covenants 122:5–7.)

            Example #7:
            See Deuteronomy 28 for a Biblical chapter loaded with anaphora.  Pay attention to the words “Blessed,” “Cursed,” and “The Lord shall.”

            Anaphora in LDS Sermons

            Example #8:
            “Here we played together as our children grew, and here we prayed together. Here we and our children came to know our Heavenly Father, that He lives, and listens, and answers.”[3]  (President Gordon B. Hinckley.)  (President Hinckley was especially fond of anaphora.  This and the following four examples all come from a single chapter in the Gordon B. Hinckley student manual.)

            Example #9:
            “We have thousands of good bishops in this Church. We have thousands of good quorum officers. We have thousands of wonderful Relief Society women. We have home teachers and visiting teachers.”[4]  (President Gordon B. Hinckley.)

            Example #10:
            “Behold your little ones. Pray with them. Pray for them and bless them. The world into which they are moving is a complex and difficult world. They will run into heavy seas of adversity. They will need all the strength and all the faith you can give them while they are yet near you. And they also will need a greater strength which comes of a higher power. They must do more than go along with what they find. They must lift the world, and the only levers they will have are the example of their own lives and the powers of persuasion that will come of their testimonies and their knowledge of the things of God. They will need the help of the Lord. While they are young, pray with them that they may come to know that source of strength which shall then always be available in every hour of need.”[5]  (President Gordon B. Hinckley.)  (Pay attention to the word “they.”  Also note the minimal anaphora at the beginning with the word “pray.”  Finally, the phrase “pray with them” could be characterized as an example of inclusio, because it occurs near the beginning and the end of the passage.)

            Example #11:
            “Your daily conversations with him will bring peace into your hearts and a joy into your lives that can come from no other source. … Your love will strengthen. Your appreciation for one another will grow.  Your children will be blessed with a sense of security that comes of living in a home where dwells the Spirit of God.”[6]  (President Gordon B. Hinckley.)

            Example #12:
            “They will know and love parents who respect one another, and a spirit of respect will grow in their own hearts. They will experience the security of kind words quietly spoken. They will be sheltered by a father and mother who, living honestly with God, live honestly with one another and with their fellowmen. They will mature with a sense of appreciation, having heard their parents in prayer express gratitude for blessings great and small. They will grow with faith in the living God.”[7]  (President Gordon B. Hinckley.)

            Example #13:
            “To abide in God’s love in this sense means to submit fully to His will.  It means to accept His correction when needed, ‘for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.’  It means to love and serve one another as Jesus has loved and served us.  It means to learn ‘to abide the law of a celestial kingdom’ so that we can ‘abide a celestial glory.’”[8]  (Elder D. Todd Christofferson.)

[1] 11th ed., on CD-ROM.
[2] "anaphora, n.". OED Online. June 2017. Oxford University Press. (accessed September 02, 2017).
[3] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 2016, Chapter 11: “Home—the Basis of a Righteous Life,” p. 165.  This chapter can be read here.
[4] Ibid at 169.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid at 170.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ensign, November 2016, "Abide in My Love," p. 49.  This talk can be read here.

Monday, August 28, 2017


            The OED defines asyndeton as “A rhetorical figure which omits the conjunction.”[1]  So instead of writing, “The intriguing stranger was tall, dark, and handsome,” a writer using asyndeton would write, “The intriguing stranger was tall, dark, handsome.”

            Why would a writer use asyndeton?  Arthur Quinn states two reasons, but cautions that these two are not exclusive or exhaustive.

            First, omitting the conjunction can speed things up, and this acceleration applies not only to the reading of the words, but also to the events that those words are describing.  For example, Quinn cites Caesar’s famous statement about Gaul: “I came, I saw, I conquered.”  The asyndeton not only makes the statement more brief, but perhaps also emphasizes the speed with which Caesar conquered the place after he came and saw it.

            In a subtle way, the asyndeton here helps to characterize Caesar himself as a quick, decisive, and powerful general—or perhaps I should say, as a quick, decisive, powerful general.  Like Caesar, asyndeton cuts to the punch and does not mess around.  Unlike most writers, including yours truly, asyndeton leans toward taciturnity—it is more laconic than loquacious.  Thus, asyndeton gives the writer a tool to temper the tone.

            Second, omitting the conjunction can make the items in the list be read as “constituting an inseparable whole” instead of as representing individual, separate items.  Quinn cites Abraham Lincoln’s famous quotation from the Gettysburg address: “That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  The repetition of people (an example of epistrophe) further contributes to this effect in this case.[2]

            What are some other possible reasons for using asyndeton?  Going along with the notion of brevity, asyndeton gives a statement the feeling of being clipped.  Also, when the reader is instinctively expecting a conjunction before the final item, but instead is hit with the final item early, and with no conjunction accompanying it, the result can be to emphasize that final item.

            I think of a statement by Mrs. Drysdale in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies when she expresses the desire to be “slim, trim, beautiful.”  She not only employs asyndeton, but also pauses with each comma and pronounces the final item with extra gusto in her voice.  Add to this the fact that beautiful occupies the final position in the sentence, which is a power position, and she achieves a triple emphasis.  Perhaps this helps to explain, at least in part, why her statement was not only funny but also memorable.

            I would not overemphasize the power of asyndeton to speed things up, because in fact only a single conjunction is being omitted, and conjunctions are tiny words.  Only the final item in the series is accelerated; all the other items in the list remain unchanged.  For this reason, asyndeton is generally less emphatic than its opposite, polysyndeton, which usually adds a conjunction to every single item.  Polysyndeton can hammer away at every single item in the list, giving each one extra oomph, whereas asyndeton merely brings the final item closer to the preceding items.  The effect is more subtle, which might help to explain why asyndeton is often used by highbrow academic types.  It has that delicious, snooty, liberal-chic quality to it, like the subtle smoky savor of smoked Gouda—though, of course, any writer of any political or gustatory persuasion can relish the smooth staccato subtleties of asyndeton.

            Note the following warning from Quinn: “Too frequent use of the asyndeton . . . will give to prose a jerky, unconnected feel.”[3]

Examples of Asyndeton in the Scriptures

            I wrote in a previous blog post (which can be accessed here) that polysyndeton might be the most common literary device in the scriptures.  Not so with asyndeton, which is far more rare.  But here are some examples.

Example #1:
 “The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.  Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.  Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?  Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.”  (Exodus 15:9–12, KJV.)  (Note also how the omission of conjunctions can produce comma splices.)

Example #2:
“He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.  As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.”  (Deuteronomy 32:10–12, KJV.)

Example #3:
“And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.”  (1 Kings 22:4, KJV.)  (Zeugma here as well.)

Example #4:
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”  (Mark 7:21–23, KJV.)

Example #5:
“They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.  Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.”  (Luke 17:27–29.)  (Note the pinch of polysyndeton mixed in.)

Example #6:
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  (1 Corinthians 13:4–8, KJV.)

Example #7:
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, KJV.)

Example #8:
“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.”  (2 Timothy 3:10–11, KJV.)

Example #9:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”  (2 Timothy 3:16, KJV.)

Example #10:
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”  (2 Timothy 4:2, KJV.)

Example #11:
“For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.”  (Mosiah 16:3, Book of Mormon.)

Example #12:
“And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.”  (Mosiah 27:9, Book of Mormon.)

Example #13:
“But if she observe not to do whatsoever I have commanded her, I will visit her according to all her works, with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, with devouring fire.”  (Doctrine and Covenants 97:26.)

Example #14:
“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;  That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord, that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord, that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High—”  (Doctrine and Covenants 109:8–9.)

[1] "asyndeton, n.". OED Online. June 2017. Oxford University Press. (accessed August 28, 2017).
[2] Arthur Quinn, Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase (Salt Lake City: Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., 1982), 7.
[3] Ibid at 10.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Soviet Saviors

Soviet Saviors

A hundred years ago emerged a nation
Whose leaders with the devil made a pact
To reenact the Genesis creation,
Except with God omitted from the act.
For God turned out to be an evil fool
Whose plan could never save humanity,
But communism gave these men the tool
By which they’d make God’s children truly free.
By politics correcting God’s cruel errors,
They sought by force to make us free and equal.
Yet notwithstanding all their bloody terrors,
The world still waits to see the promised sequel.
This paradox these killers failed to fix:
Equality and liberty don’t mix.

June 24, 2017 © Aaron Jordan

Friday, June 30, 2017

God’s True Love and Living, Loving Truth

God’s Love and Truth

Will people live the truth who love it not?
Mere truth, as truth, propels with little force.
What love for truth can live when truth is aught
But truth directed by love’s gentle course?
Can love stay love that stays not true to truth?
True love is honest, though the truth be cruel.
What truth stays true that stays from love aloof?
Hard truth by love untempered plays the fool.
As gentle heat that warms but does not burn,
As kindly light that shines but does not blind,
So gentle love to truth a heart can turn,
So kindly truth to love inspire the mind.
If love by truth can die, and truth by love,
Both live when Spirit-filled by God above.

June 26, 2017 © Aaron Jordan

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Marriage to My Lovely Lover

Infatuation blinds the lover’s eye.
It heats the heart, but in the process numbs it.
And flesh aflame with lust doth simply lie,
On true love prosecutes a false assumpsit.
Outside of marriage, love by lust doth rot,
And love, once dead, leaves lust to fade away—
Such empty, broken vessels, once so hot,
Now shattered shards of lonely, cold dismay.
The heart alone knows joy—the flesh mere pleasure.
Base lust and noble love, engaged in war,
Must marry to make peace as blended treasure,
With lust subsumed in love’s triumphant soar.
Thus marriage safely gives to passion life.
I love my lovely lover—my sweet wife.

June 17, 2017 © Aaron Jordan


Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Somber Sonnet for Father's Day

A Father’s Loving Burden

A father’s youthful failures heavy weigh
Like lead upon his tired, aging soul.
He wants his son to never go astray,
To have, unlike himself, a spirit whole.
Such freedom must he give the boy to grow
To learn by choice what makes a noble man.
Yet from that freedom many errors flow,
And license will destroy him if it can.
No freedom dwells where failure is precluded,
Yet failure breeds such doubt and misery
That only fathers foolishly deluded
Would from correction leave their children free.
Though flawed as men, we fathers must reflect
Those virtues that will win our sons’ respect.

February 20, 2017 © Aaron Jordan

Friday, June 9, 2017

Polysyndeton--Bring It On!


What is polysyndeton?  (Pronounced polly-SIN-di-ton; almost like saying, "Polly sinned a ton," especially if you're British.  If you're American, make the last syllable rhyme with "on.")  Consider some definitions.

The Oxford English Dictionary:
“The use of several conjunctions or, more usually, the same conjunction several times, in swift succession.”[1]

Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed.:
“repetition of conjunctions in close succession (as in we have ships and men and money and stores)”[2]

The American Heritage College Dictionary, 4th ed.:
The repetition of conjunctions in close succession for rhetorical effect, as in here and there and everywhere.[3]

Arthur Quinn:
“Choosing to have too many conjunctions is to make a polysyndeton.”[4]

Ethelbert William Bullinger:
“The repetition of the word ‘and’ at the beginning of successive clauses.”[5]

The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms:
“A rhetorical term for the repeated use of conjunctions to link together a succession of words, clauses, or sentences . . .”[6]

The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory:
“(Gk ‘much compounded’)  The opposite of asyndeton . . . and thus the repetition of conjunctions. . . .  The most frequently used conjunction in English is ‘and.’”[7]

A Dictionary of Literary Devices:
“The repetition of conjunctions more frequently than grammatical order demands.”[8]

Silva Rhetoricae:
“Employing many conjunctions between clauses, often slowing the tempo or rhythm.”[9]


Why would a writer use polysyndeton?

A writer using literary devices to figure speech is like a sculptor molding clay or a carpenter selecting from among a variety of tools to accomplish a particular job.  Try as we might to approach objectivity in the rules and principles governing the use of language, we must accept the subjectivity inherent in the subject, which is to say that writing leans more toward art than science.

Deciding to use polysyndeton or any other literary device is usually a matter of subjective taste, of the individual writer’s gut instinct.  You have to get a feel for it, and your feeling will differ from that of other writers.  That being said, here are some thoughts on the use of polysyndeton with the most commonly employed conjunction, and.

By inserting extra ands instead of commas between the items in a series, you stretch that series out.  The additional words can potentially slow down the reading of the series, and several sources note the deceleration resulting from polysyndeton.  But extra words notwithstanding, sometimes the lack of commas can potentially speed things up, or at the very least intensify it.  Whether polysyndeton slows down or speeds up your writing depends on the particular context.

Either way, the use of polysyndeton creates more distance between the items in a series and usually results in emphasis being placed on each item individually.

When Polysyndeton Speeds Things Up and Hammers Away

If the series is being read quickly, as when the commas are omitted, the individual emphasis on each item can result in a hammering effect that can ratchet up the energy of the passage.

For example: “She punched and pinched and poked and prodded and whacked and smacked and flicked and in sundry other ways taunted her victims until they either cried out or ran away.”

Compare: “She punched, pinched, poked, prodded, whacked, smacked, flicked, and in sundry other ways taunted her victims until they either cried out or ran away.”

A writer could employ either of the two sentences above, and different writers might prefer one to the other, but my own feeling is that the use of polysyndeton in the first variant makes the sentence more forceful and energetic thanks to the hammering effect.  The polysyndeton hammers each item in the series, emphasizing each item individually.

But beware.  Because literary devices usually stretch language beyond its basic, plain, literal, or commonly accepted use, they often involve the risk of stretching too far.  The examples above list seven specific items in the series, followed by a more generalized eighth item (“sundry other ways”) that caps them off.  Some readers might feel that seven or eight items is too many, in which case the polysyndeton only further exhausts the already tired reader.

Here is a milder use of polysyndeton that I employed in three lines from a humorous sonnet that I wrote about lawnmowing: “The earwigs who ignored me I did kill, / and clumps of dirt and rocks and sticks I hurled / With mighty force in all directions wide!”  Dirt, rocks, and sticks are only three items, which makes the series much easier to digest, yet three, connected by two ands, is enough to create the emphatic effect.  (The post with the lawnmowing sonnet can be found here.)

This hammering at regular intervals can also convey a sense of impatience, or it might merely reflect the colloquial nature of some people’s speech.[10]

Note that in many literary devices, especially those involving repetition, it is often preferable to have at least three occurrences of whatever is being repeated.  The use of three occurrences firmly establishes the rhythm or pattern of the device employed.  Two can be sufficient, but often results in a weak effect or in a diffuse, inchoate pattern.

Polysyndeton requires only two occurrences of the repeated conjunction to work effectively, but this minimal use of polysyndeton demands at least three items in the list, because only then can the conjunction be stated at least twice to connect the three listed items.

For example: “To pass the time, we watched movies and read books.”  No polysyndeton there.  Two items separated by a single and does not reach the minimum threshold.

Compare: “To pass the time, we watched movies and read books and played all kinds of games.”  With three items listed and two ands between them, you have breached the threshold of polysyndeton.

Incidentally, this is the kind of sentence that elementary school teachers might not approve of.  Read the same sentence without polysyndeton: “To pass the time, we watched movies, read books, and played all kinds of games.”  Elementary school teachers would probably approve of this sentence, though to my ears it sounds a little more bland than the version with the polysyndeton.

I have nothing against elementary school teachers.  I am simply pointing out that they tend to teach the simple, plain, literal use of language at the basic, introductory level, language that is often mistakenly thought of as “normal” or “standard.”  The same can probably be said of most high school teachers or even of many instructors of introductory college writing.  Beginning students have to start somewhere, and the basics are the most proper place to start.

But literary devices often stretch language beyond the basics.  They can achieve richer effects than the basic forms, though at a greater risk of stoking someone’s disapproval.  Ironically, though they are sometimes considered grammatically incorrect, they are far more common, normal, and standard than many people realize.

Notice from the above examples that the hammering effect of polysyndeton does not always violently hammer, but sometimes gently taps.  It is often subtle.  Consequently, the writer must make a subjective, intuitive decision about whether polysyndeton adds anything of worth to a passage listing a series of items.  Why draw attention to the form and distract from the substance if little or nothing of value is gained?

Different writers and readers will probably disagree on the value of polysyndeton, as on any other literary device.  Where some see beauty or find additional pleasure in a particular use of polysyndeton, others might see unnecessary clutter and distraction.  They might even find it irritating.

So know thyself and know thine audience and be aware of the risks you are taking when trying to push your writing to a more sophisticated level via literary devices.

When Polysyndeton Slows Things Down, as in the Scriptures

In cases where the polysyndeton is slowing down the reading of the passage, especially when the additional ands do not replace the commas but are used together with them, or when additional ands begin new sentences, then the polysyndeton can add a sense of formality and dignity.  Perhaps for this reason we find so much polysyndeton in the scriptures.

In fact, polysyndeton is probably the most commonly used literary device in the scriptures.  Open the Bible (KJV), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, or the Pearl of Great Price to almost any page, and there is a good chance that you will find at least one example of polysyndeton.  (The LDS canon represents the only scriptures with which I am familiar to a significant degree, but I would not be surprised if scriptures from non-Western cultures are also rich with literary devices like polysyndeton.)

Following are some salient examples.

Example #1:
“And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.  And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.  And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.  And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” (Genesis 22:8–12, KJV.)

Example #2:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:  And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”  (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, KJV.)

Example #3:
“And we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war—yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war.”  (Jarom 1:8, Book of Mormon.)

Example #4:
“But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work.”  (Helaman 3:14, Book of Mormon.)

Example #5:
“Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation.”  (Doctrine and Covenants 63:64.)

If you think some of the above examples are heavy, now brace yourself for some real mega-whoppers.

Example #6:
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.  And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.  And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.  And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?  And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.  And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.  And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.  And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”  (Revelation 13:1–8, KJV.)

Example #7:
“And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me.  Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me.  And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.  And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days.  And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents.  And my people would that we should call the name of the place Nephi; wherefore, we did call it Nephi.  And all those who were with me did take upon them to call themselves the people of Nephi.  And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses.  And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance.  And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind.  And I, Nephi, had also brought the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass; and also the ball, or compass, which was prepared for my father by the hand of the Lord, according to that which is written.  And it came to pass that we began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land.”  (2 Nephi 5:6–13, Book of Mormon.)

Example #8:
“And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the Spirit of God.  And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.  And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.  And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?  And behold, the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face.  And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things.  Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.  And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.  And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.  And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.”  (Moses 1:27–34, Pearl of Great Price.)

If any of the above examples seem more diluted than any of the others, that fact illustrates another principle relating to polysyndeton, namely that the closer the conjunctions are concentrated together, the stronger will be the effect of the polysyndeton.

Keep in mind that smaller examples of polysyndeton fill the scriptures.  The examples probably run at least into the hundreds, perhaps even into the thousands.

Other Aspects of Polysyndeton

I find that polysyndeton often captures the jumpy, leapfrogging nature of my expanding thoughts as one item makes me think of another item, which in turn makes me think of a third, and then a fourth, etc.  Perhaps because each item initially seems to be the last, I place an and in front of it, but before I can manage to stop the list with a final period, my brain conjures up yet another item, which I feel compelled to tack on to the end of my growing list, again with the help of an and.  In this manner, from one lily pad to another, I leap across one and after another and employ polysyndeton without consciously intending to.

Arthur Quinn, who wrote one of the most helpful little books about literary devices, Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase (though I think his book contains a few errors), seems to describe this tendency when he writes, “Sometimes the polysyndeton gives the sense of an ever lengthening catalogue of roughly equal members.”[11]

Hence why polysyndeton so smoothly facilitates the literary device of accumulation (or, pardon moi, accumulatio).  When those ands repeat at the beginning of successive clauses or phrases, they easily embrace anaphora as well.  Put them at the end, and you might get epistrophe, or in the middle, mesodiplosis.  Polysyndeton can accompany and enhance a variety of other literary devices.  But a discussion of those other devices will have to wait their turn for future blog posts.

By capturing and connecting thought after thought, one by one, into a mental train as those thoughts emerge from the murky tunnel of the writer’s mind, polysyndeton can help to reveal the writing process in real time by reflecting the evolving and accumulating thoughts of the writer as he or she keeps adding onto them, even while still in mid-sentence.  Here we face the danger of sprawling, of course, but such exploratory sprawling of a brilliant mind at work on great ideas might be exactly what some readers most enjoy in your writing.

If you are an essayist trying to preserve not only the substance of your thoughts, but also the process by which those thoughts emerged from your mind as you meandered from one thought to another, it might be a good idea not to edit out all the polysyndetons during revisions.  Just make sure that the polysyndetons genuinely flow and do not come across as excessively artificial contrivances or as the sloppy carelessness characteristic of first drafts.

Quinn mentions that in listing the series, you can arrange the items in ascending or descending importance, or you can move between the general and the specific, or you can relate different items in terms of space or time.[12]

He also points out “that the indefiniteness of ‘and’ envelops biblical narratives . . . in mystery” and that “[o]ccasionally, in the Bible and elsewhere, repeated polysyndetons have an almost hypnotic power.”[13]  I think that this hypnotic power results from the rhythm, unpredictable spontaneity, and potentially limitless open-endedness of items connected in a list by a repeating conjunction—which most of the time will be the conjunction and.

Although I have focused primarily on the repetition of and because it is the most common conjunction repeated, the repetition of any conjunction qualifies under most definitions of polysyndeton.

Note, however, that some sources use the term paradiastole to define the repetition of “disjunctive conjunctions” or “disjunctions,” which separate elements rather than conjoin them, or which negate a string of elements rather than affirm them.  Under this definition, paradiastole can be seen as a subset of polysyndeton.

But note again, however, that the OED, which I consider the most authoritative source for word definitions, does not define paradiastole this way.

That is another tricky aspect of literary devices—definitions abound.  Often they overlap to one degree or another.  Occasionally a single term covers multiple definitions, or multiple terms cover a single definition.  Sometimes different sources contradict each other.  Although I usually defer to the OED, sometimes even its definitions are not satisfactory, at least in my subjective judgment.

I find the distinction between conjunctions and disjunctions helpful.  Within the context of polysyndeton, I generally reserve the term paradiastole for polysyndetons involving repeated negations, such as neithers, nors, and even nots, though sometimes it is extended to eithers and ors.  I will not delve any further into the negating, disjunctive branch of polysyndeton here, but will save that discussion for a later blog post about paradiastole.

In the meantime, here are some scriptural polysyndetons (or paradiastoles, if you prefer) that involve the conjunction or, but without the element of negation.

Example #9:
“And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth . . .” (Deuteronomy 14:26.)

Example #10:
“Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;”  (Doctrine and Covenants 59:17.)

Example #11:
“And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; . . .” (1 Samuel 2:14.)

Here is an example of polysyndeton involving the repetition of both or and and:

Example #12:
“And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.  (Mark 10:29–30; compare Matthew 19:29 and Luke 18:29–30.) (This example also contains a zeugma—another device that will have to wait its turn for a blog post of its own.)

Parting Thoughts

Keep in mind that a modern writer, especially one hoping for a good grade on a writing assignment in a high school class or a college course, probably cannot get away with everything that scriptural authors got away with long ago, at least not without incurring some modern penalty.

Never mind that those ancient authors produced some of the most inspiring and durable literature of all time.  In some circles nowadays, no good literary device goes unpunished.

Which reminds me of another handy principle to guide our use of writing tools.  Sometimes it is best to plan for the rule, not the exception; to master the fundamentals and to grow through them rather than to try to bypass them from the outset; and to have some valid reason other than mere gimmickry for bending our language beyond the basics.

But on the other hand, if you never stretch yourself, you will never grow.

So if you feel so inclined, give polysyndeton a try.  It can add to your writing a sense of style and personality and attitude and panache and joy and happiness and excitement and humor and redundancy and tediousness and compositional pleasure and who knows what else.

But if Miss Thistlewhistle Standardstickler or Professor Gary Grammarian Rulepontificator docks your grade for it, don’t blame me.

[1] "polysyndeton, n.". OED Online. March 2017. Oxford University Press. (accessed May 06, 2017).
[2] Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2008), 963.
[3] The American Heritage College Dictionary, 4th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2004), 1081.
[4] Arthur Quinn, Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase (Salt Lake City: Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., 1982), 11.
[5] E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing, 2011; London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1898), 208.
[6] Chris Baldick, The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 264.
[7] J. A. Cuddon, The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (London: Penguin Books, 1991), 729.
[8] Bernard Dupriez, A Dictionary of Literary Devices, trans. Albert W. Halsall (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991),  348.
[9] (accessed May 6, 2017).
[10] Quinn, Figures of Speech, 13.
[11] Ibid. at 11.
[12] Ibid. at 11–12.
[13] Ibid. at 12.