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Part 5

Lit. Terminology: Having been provoked by way of a recent e-mail (actually, just by the subject header of the e-mail), I’ve decided to write another entry. Yippee.

The subject of the e-mail goes as follows:

Subject i suppose you know all about parallelism and polysendetons [sic] and where to put commas too, huh? :)

The answer is: yes, I do. To all of the above. To prove it, thought, I guess I’ll have to provide some text to that effect.

3 people waiting to be rescued from a department store roof in Istanbul, Turkey. CNN: March 13, 1999 - click for a larger version

First, let’s tackle parallelism. Most literally, it refers to things being “side by side” (from the Greek), and also refers to going in the same direction (think of parallel lines in Euclidean geometry). In literature it can have several different, yet (structurallly) related, meanings—depending on the context. In all contexts, it refers to a type of similarity, often structural. For example, we have have repetition of the final words of a line in poetry, or repetition of an idea/thought (through synonyms) in successive lines. The opposite can also occure—the formation of antithetical structure, as is seen in much Baroque poetry. In narrative forms (epic, novel, etc.) parallelism of a different sort can occur, such as in the creation of parallel plot structures, that is, similar plot lines which often involve similar actions by different characters, or a single character repeating the same, or nearly identical, action at a later time.

On to polysyndeton. Poly—from Latin for many—we have “many connections” or, many conjunctions; polysyndeton refers to stringing together many conjunctions.

As for commas, I can generally put them in the right place(s). Whether or not I choose to do so, however, is an entirely different matter. A mildly interesting aside has to do with German, which has rather different rules for using commas than English. That is, you use them everywhere. When in doubt, use a comma. Actually, the above statement is not quite true; German has rather rigid and specific rules regarding the use of commas. The problem, for me, is merely that I occasionally confuse the comma rules for each language.

—March 13, 1999

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