Saturday, July 16, 2011

Words: Antanaclasis

ant·an·a·clas·is /ant-an-uh-klas-is/

Wikipedia: Antanaclasis (from the Greek: ἀντανάκλασις) meaning "reflection", is the stylistic trope of repeating a single word, but with a different meaning each time… it is often found in slogans. I came across this word while reading Tom Wolfes' essay, The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening (a very good read, and surprising current considering it was written about 40 years ago):

At first glance, Shirley Polykoff's slogan – "If I've only one life, let me live it as a blonde!" – seems like merely another example of a superficial and irritating rhetorical trope (antanaclasis) that now happens to be fashionable among advertising copywriters.
In the version of the essay I have, he includes a footnote with examples and explanations (from late 60s, early 70s advertising):
  • "We're American Airlines, doing what we do best" (1. doing = performing; 2. what we do = our job)
  • "If you think refrigerators cost too much, maybe you're looking at too much refrigerator" (1. cost; 2. complexity, size)
Advertising references? Hook me up!

Good Writing, Interesting Content

Every once in a while I read something (fiction, non-fiction, whatever) that really resonates with me, this is one of those times. The essay touches on a variety of themes, and focuses on the new spirituality initiated by the hippies, and resulting in a range of new religions and cults.

In fact, the notion of some sort of divine ecstasy runs throughout the religious history of the past 2,500 years. As Max Weber (Sociology of Religion) and Joachim Wach have illustrated in detail, every major modern religion, as well as countless long-gone minor ones, has originated not with a theology or a set of values or a social goal or even a vague hope of a life hereafter. They have all originated, instead, with a small circle of people who have shared some overwhelming ecstasy or seizure, a "vision," a "trance," a hallucination – an actual neurological event, in fact, a dramatic change in metabolism, something that has seemed to light up the entire central nervous system.
Basically, what I really like in a writer is that they put to words what I think/believe/feel (it can be any of those) in such a way that most people can understand it, and it doesn't come out like a drunken Amy rant (yes, sometimes I get going). So, thank you, Tom Wolfe, for such an entertaining, informative and reassuring piece of writing.

If you'd like to read the essay, The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening is available as a pdf from a wonderful, "since 1996" website, or buy the book (I recommend perusing your favorite local used book shop first).

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