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Tuesday, 26 June 2007


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Adam Kotsko

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

"Acephalous: Where Trying Too Hard is Trying Just Hard Enough."


Or, you know, we could all just be crazy.

Studying the speech of hypomanic patients has revealed that they tend to rhyme and use other sound associations, such as alliteration, far more often than do unaffected individuals. They also use idiosyncratic words nearly three times as often as do control subjects. Moreover, in specific drills, they can list synonyms or form other word associations much more rapidly than is considered normal. It seems, then, that both the quantity and quality of thoughts build during hypomania. This speed increase may range from a very mild quickening to complete psychotic incoherence. It is not yet clear what causes this qualitative change in mental processing. Nevertheless, this altered cognitive state may well facilitate the formation of unique ideas and associations.

Kay Redfield Jamison, "Manic-Depressive Illness and Creativity," Scientific American February 1995.


All this bubbling of sap and slipping of sheaths and bursting of calyxes was carried to her on mingled currents of fragrance. ??

Day-um! No wonder they called this one "the hot Ethan Frome."

Could you even use this seductive sort of language for anything besides, you know, literal seduction? I can't see any writer, no matter how good, inspiring this kind of passion about the health care system, or progressive taxation, etc.

Jonathan Dresner

Write first, edit later.

If the alliteration is a useful tool for getting thoughts down on the page, use it. You will edit it later anyway: will it slow you down more or less to deal with the alliteration in the iteration instead of up-front?

The Constructivist

If you were to Take Your Blog to the Course, your style would fit right in with the sportswriting swing. Just saying.


Prof. Dresner of course has it right, and anything I would add along those lines would another variation of the good advice our advisors give us, that we then struggle to take. Instead I'll add a different, if perhaps overly obvious, observation: if alliteration works, you aren't going to notice it as such. The alliteration in the Wharton piece is successful because it carries the reader along an imagistic stream. One can go back and admire such use of language, but if it calls attention to itself, if you're busy noticing the prevailing pugency of the pine sap, then you're not really reading the next bit, and the power and effectiveness of such language is lost. I don't think that this is substantially different in analytic or persuasive writing, though, given the more abstracted kind of signifiers likely to be used, there is perhaps more of a chance for the aesthetic qualities of writing to distracting rather than compelling.


I answer in the affirmative. Just so.

Tim Lacy

Great post. I tend toward alliteration in my first drafts, and am reluctant to lose it later. This is helping me think more carefully about my own work. - TL

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