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Word of the Day: Asyndeton

Asyndeton is a great word! It won't come up much in conversation, but if it does, boy, will it be useful!

Asyndeton is a stylistic scheme in which conjunctions are deliberately omitted from a series of related clauses. Examples are veni, vidi, vici and its English translation "I came, I saw, I conquered." Its use can have the effect of speeding up the rhythm of a passage and making a single idea more memorable. More generally, in grammar, an asyndetic coordination is a type of coordination in which no coordinating conjunction is present between the conjoins.

Encyclopedia Britannica
Asyndeton: the omission of the conjunctions that ordinarily join coordinate words or clauses, as in the phrase “I came, I saw, I conquered” or in Matthew Arnold's poem The Scholar Gipsy:

Thou hast not lived, why should'st thou perish, so?
Thou hadst one aim, one business, one desire;
Else wert thou long since numbered with the dead!

I came across "asyndeton" several times while reading articles by Moshe Greenberg over Shavuot, from Studies in the Bible and Jewish Thought (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1995). (The best words of the day are those that you find while reading, like abecedary or asyndeton.) The most interesting article that I read was "The Stabilization of the Text of the Hebrew Bible: Reviewed in the Light of the Biblical Materials from the Judean Desert," even though it was old, I think from 1956. I also started reading "The Decalogue Tradition Critically Examined" (1989), and if I had had more time, I probably would have enjoyed finishing it.


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