• anacoluthon •
æ-nê-kê-lu-thahn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An inconsistent sentence structure, e.g. "While in the garden, his shoelaces came untied." 2. An abrupt, midsentence interruption of an utterance with an unrelated one, e.g. "George thinks—but what does George know?—himself gorgeous."
Notes: This is a rhetorical term which should be at home among word-lovers, though it is infrequent (to say the least) among the general populace. When speaking about many of them, you may freely use the Greek plural, anacolutha, or the English one: anacoluthons.
In Play: In the past we have—of course, we don't have to follow tradition—always used the In Play section to give examples of rhetorical devices. That means (how did 'means' come to mean "implies"?) we don't have to do what we are presently doing.
Word History: Today's Good Word is a transliterated form of Greek anacoluthon, the neuter of anakolouthos "inconsequent" from an- "not" + akolouthos "following". This latter word comprises a sociative prefix a(n)- "(together) with" + keleuthos "way, path". No one knows how keleuthos entered Greek, but the non-negative a(n) seems to have come from Proto-Indo-European sem-/som- "(as) one". In Greek this PIE word became hama "together with" with a combining form (h)a(n)-. It also became homos "same", as in the English borrowings homogenize, homonym, and homophonic. The Latinized form of akolouthos was acolytus, which English borrowed as acolyte "an attendant, assistant". English inherited the PIE word via its Germanic ancestors as same and some. (Gratitude is due Tony Bowden of London for bringing today's arcane Good Word to our attention.)
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