This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Nuts and Bolts: antanaclasis.

There's nothing like a Greek word to give a bad joke an aura of respectability.
Antanaclasis is using a word to mean two different things at once.

It used to be quite respectable. I mean, Shakespeare:
Viola: Save thee, friend, and thy music! Dost thou live by thy tabour?
Clown: No, sir,* I live by the church.
Viola: Art thou a churchman?
Clown: No such matter, sir: I do live by the church; for I do live at my house, and my house doth stand by the church.

Courtice Pounds as Feste in Tree’s 1901 Production of ‘Twelfth Night’.

It's true that truly terrible joke is perpetrated by a clown, who might be expected to be a bit silly, but in Shakespeare even high-class characters like Othello (a general) Hamlet (a prince) and Henry V (a king) fail to avoid a bit of antanaclasis.
Antanaclasis has carried on being used right down the years. Personally I like the Benjamin Franklin one-liner:

"Your argument is sound...all sound"

and antanaclasis is still trundling downhill, to its possibly final resting place (how low can it get?) as a favourite of advertising copy-writers, like the old Washington Post slogan:

"If you don't get it, you don't get it".

So there we are. We'll never be bored, then, will we. Not with antanaclasis all over the place causing pain to all and sundry.

Ah well. While we live, let us live, eh?
Thing To Use Today: antanaclasis. This word is Greek: antanáklasis means reflection, from anti, against, ana, up and klásis breaking. Though the chance of anyone actually breaking up nowadays is slight.

*Both Shakespeare's and Viola's habits inevitably involve her looking like a man.


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