the use of several conjunctions in close succession, especially where some could otherwise be omitted (as in “he ran and jumped and laughed for joy”)
There’s something utterly delightful about loving a writing device and using it all the time and then realizing there’s a word for it. Yay!
Upon further reading, I discovered I also use asyndeton a lot, which is the omitting all the conjunctions — for instance, I could write the example in the quote above using asyndeton as, “he ran, jumped, laughed for joy.”
The thinky part for me here is that I have, in the past, thought I should without exception use semicolons when juxtaposing independent clauses without conjunctions. For instance, it seems one of the oft-cited examples of asyndeton is, “Veni, vidi vici” — “I came, I saw, I conquered.” These are three independent clauses, so were I writing something similar, I would have felt I should have more correctly punctuated it as, “I came; I saw; I conquered.”
But the semicolon gives a different “feel,” doesn’t it? It reads like three separate sentences joined up because there’s a common idea or because these things happened in quick succession. The commas, on the other hand, give the sentence a different rhythm; the clear omission of a conjunction makes the words tumble into inevitability, as if they are less a statement of three separate but related facts and more an unquestionable domino effect.
I’m a huge fan of the correct use of semicolons — but there have been times I would have preferred to use commas for effect but wasn’t quite aware enough of what I was doing. Learning this is a known literary device and putting the name “asyndeton” to it helps a lot: now, rather than wallowing in edits with, “but is this punctuation correct?,” I can consider the sentence and decide whether I want to use semicolons or employ asyndeton with what otherwise would be compound sentences with a conjunction.
So for me, this is a rather delightful example of how better learning the rules can help one break them!
(Usual disclaimer: I’m an armchair linguist. Corrections and further elucidations are always welcome!)
- OH LOOK I didn’t even realize I did that. Whee!↵