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Epizeuxis

Pronounced /ɛpɪˈzjuːksɪs/Help with pronunciation

A writer in an American scholarly journal in 1914 felt that it was hard on schoolchildren of his time to get a grip on the concepts of rhetoric when they had to describe them in mouthfuls like epitheton, catachresis, hendiadys, aposiopesis, hysteron proteron, hypallage, anacolouthon, hyperbaton, parrhesia and epizeuxis.

Few of us of any age have to struggle these days with such words or the concepts that they represent, though the tricks of effective communication they stand for are still very much with us.

When in 2001 the Labour Party leader Tony Blair told the country that a top priority of his administration was “education, education, education”, he was committing epizeuxis, the repetition of a word for emphasis. Other famous examples are Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Break, Break, Break / On thy cold grey stones, O sea” and Rudyard Kipling’s “Boots, boots, boots, boots, movin’ up and down again.”

It’s not necessary to follow the rule of repetition so strictly. Richard the Third’s “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” and Captain Ahab’s “Death and devils! men, it is Moby Dick ye have seen — Moby Dick — Moby Dick!” are other examples of epizeuxis.

Epizeuxis is from Greek epi-, in addition, plus zeuxis (from zeugnunai, to yoke), hence fastening together.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 5 Oct. 2013

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-epi1.htm
Last modified: 5 October 2013.