Word for the Day – Anacoluthon

c4d_fragments_by_nihilusdesigns-d59g2uz.jpgC4d fragments, by nihilusdesigns (http://nihilusdesigns.deviantart.com)

I just came across a word I had never met before. We ought to be old friends, this word and I, because I do this thing quite a lot, being a person with a limited attention span who frequently starts a sentence in 2017 and ends in 1946, and I live in a “culture” that doesn’t seem to be capable of sustained thought:


“Anacoluthon” means pretty much the same thing as “non sequitur,” or “You’re losing me,” “What are you talking about?” and “That don’t make no SENSE.” Actually, there’s no really good Common English way to say “anacoluthon,” which is a noun, except for the Latin “non sequitur,” which is not understood by everyone. Anacoluthon occurs when you switch topics in the middle of a sentence. For example, you might say, “Hey, darling, did you remember to feed … oh, my shoelace just broke!”  Or, “Obamacare is a disaster…did you see that crowd at my rally in West Virginia, great crowd…”

It’s a Level III word in my House of English–that is, it’s from Greek and it is a word used by specialists, in this case rhetoricians. It means fragmentary speech.

I don’t think it’s the same thing as the kind of discontinuity used by comedians–  “Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese” (Luis Bunuel).– which is intentional. Anacoluthon is, I would imagine, sometimes used by people like me, who feel the urge, unshared by anyone in the immediate neighborhood, to tell the entire story. I start, as noted, in the present day, and then I feel the need to go back to the Jurassic age to recount the history. It only seems disjointed. Actually there is a thread to be followed; if you’ll wait a couple of hours, I’ll show you.

Instead, anacoluthon is the kind of discontinuity employed either innocently, as above, or nefariously, with the rhetorical intent of hammering away at disparate points so that they will be heard regardless of their context or meaning. “Great crowd…” “disaster…”  “losers”  “failing XYZ.”  You get the point.

Here is an interesting article that introduced me to the word. Enjoy. If you can.




3 thoughts on “Word for the Day – Anacoluthon

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