NVDT #57 – Vices

The other day I was looking for the word that describes the writing mechanism of stringing a sentence together with ‘and’. It can be considered a flaw when used as was being discussed. Students in freshman English constructing run-ons of independent clauses and fragments stuck together with ‘and’. It is also a rhetorical device used to mimic an enthusiastic child, or as a breathless survivor. The latter, for example, used by Hemingway in “After the Storm”.

The good thing about living in the same house with a Ph.D. in Rhetoric is there are tons of reference books. Like this Lanham. Well-loved nearly thirty years ago by a puppy who felt ignored while the thesis was being composed. I got close with this book, but when you’re not a rhetorician and have no idea what you’re looking for? I said as much and was told about this “…marvelous site put together by a man at Brigham Young. It’s so well done I sent him a note thanking him. I don’t think the search works all the time, but find something close or start with enthusiasm or vices.”

Great. Vices? Moron that in a minute. I popped into one page and found the rhetorical justification for rule-breaking. Yep. They’ve been after defining language tricks for thousands of years. Check this out. Figures, if you miss it, are rhetorical ‘plays’ one can call with language. Scary, huh?

Many figures name the ways that expression can exceed what is strictly necessary to get an idea across. (Indeed, all rhetorical figures can in some ways be considered superfluous, so long as one maintains the artificial separation of form from content). However, what is semantically unnecessary may in fact be rhetorically advantageous; that is, the form may communicate as much as the content. These figures name both purposeful excess for effect, as well as stylistic vices:

Vices? You bet I clicked it. I would urge you to do the same. The language docs have words for all of our shortcomings. You won’t find me using many of these save the more common ones (tautology) so as not to be found graecismus. Even the Professor doesn’t use them. “I can’t say to a freshman from Nigeria, working in her second language, sorry, polysyndeton is unacceptable.” I understand that. Had someone told me to find the polysyndeton in “After the Flood” I would have told them there weren’t any damn dinosaurs in the whole story and go fly a kite.

Go through the list. Find yourself. I did. More than once.

The site is Silva Rheoroticæ  http://rhetoric.byu.edu/

Published by

Phil Huston


15 thoughts on “NVDT #57 – Vices”

  1. Hold the damn bus.
    “identifying stylistic faults” — that sounds suspiciously like the preamble to rules. If a fault can be found then the rule to avoid it must have been codified.

    Clearly, society has been provided far too much spare time. No wonder I long for apocalyptic times where life’s struggles would once again have meaning (rhetorically speaking).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not rules. As stated, certain semantically useless vices are often used to further the rhetorical position. What kills me is every bad habit we have has name. ing inging. My propensity for run-ons and and and, yours for sometimes excessively flowery language, GF for 90% of them – My quest is to find the writing equivalent of – flatulence – a medical term for releasing gas from the digestive system through the anus. Us commoners would say fart. What is the proper rhetorical term?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This is very interesting actually. I only wish there were more illustrative examples of their being clearly used.. viciously? and some examples of the rules being broken skilfully. It’s good to know the names of things because if you know the name, it makes it much easier to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are examples, one offs, for most of them. The ‘and’ bit actually uses the Hemingway example I was shown in high school. Back when dinosaurs thought about becoming disposable lighters. Give me a couple of days.


      1. Yes. The other definition would put ALL those things in the subpar habit bucket. Fortunately, they left us the out of no matter how semantically and grammatically useless our work might be, certain things are acceptable in small doses if the story finds them necessary.

        There’s the other old sub joke. Two old guys are standing out by their mailboxes. One says to the other.
        “I gots me sumpin’ fro, da cote-house. A sub-poena. What da hell is dat, you suppose?”
        “Well, I dunno. But you gwan an look at it we knows what sub is, doan we.”
        “Like sub-marine an subway and da like? Dey alls under sumpin’?”
        “Zackly. Dey all means under. An ya know what your peena is even if’n your too old to recall how ta use it?”
        “I knows where mah peena is. So…So dey saying dey gots me under mah peena?”
        “Zackly. Da cote-house done got you by da balls.”

        Liked by 1 person

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