Word of the Day : June 24, 2015

anastrophe

play
noun uh-NASS-truh-fee

Definition

: inversion of the usual syntactical order of words for rhetorical effect

Did You Know?

"Powerful you have become Dooku, the dark side I sense in you." Fans of Star Wars will recognize Yoda's line in Attack of the Clones. Others might guess that Yoda is the speaker because of the unconventional syntax that is the hallmark of Yoda's speech. (In typical Yoda fashion, the subject is second instead of first in both clauses-it follows a predicate adjective and the direct object, respectively.) The name for this kind of syntactical inversion is anastrophe, from the Greek verb anastrephein, meaning "to turn back." President John F. Kennedy employed anastrophe for rhetorical effect when he inverted the typical positive-to-negative parallelism in his famous line "Ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country." In poetry, anastrophe is often used to create rhythm, as in these lines from Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky": "So rested he by the Tumtum tree, / And stood awhile in thought."


Examples

My father was fond of word play, especially anastrophe, when he talked to my sister and me about things we would rather not talk about; he would say things like "Tired you are not but to bed you must go."

"Should you buy 'Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric'? If you're at all interested in the techniques of writing, yes. At the very least, you'll learn that that last sentence, with its inversion of the usual word order -'yes' at the end instead of the beginning of the sentence-is an instance of anastrophe." - Michael Dirda, Washington Post, May 5, 2011



Test Your Vocabulary

Fill in the blanks to create the word for the shift in an unfinished sentence from one syntactic construction to another (as in "you really ought-well, do it your own way"): an _ c _ _ ut _ on. The answer is …


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