2LD: Anachronism (Prochronism vs. Postchronism) and Anacoluthon

An anachronism is something in a story that does not fit the story’s time period.  Etymologically, it means against time.  literarydevices.net gives three Shakespearean anachronisms: Julius Caesar referencing a clock (clocks were not invented until later in history), Hamlet claiming an alma mater that was not yet established, and Macbeth using the word “dollar” before it became a monetary unit.

civil war reenactor cell phone(How would the Civil War have been different if everyone had cell phones?)

Vulture.com listicled anachronisms in the greatest story ever toldaka TV show Mad Men.  Most, if not all, of these anachronisms are mistakes.  All of these anachronisms are of the “This wasn’t around until later in the future” variety.  This is known as a prochronism (pro = before, chronism = time).  These anachronisms are before their time, therefore they are prochronisms.

Anachronisms after their time, such as a bow and arrow being used in a modern battlefield, are postchronisms.

Traditional_Amish_buggy(The Amish are tangible postchronisms)

So, postchronisms are for the Amish and prochronisms are for Marine Expeditionary Units traveling back to Ancient Rome.  Both are anachronisms.

P.S.: check out Northeastern University Ben Schmidt’s website, where he seeks linguistic anachronisms in popular TV shows.
An anacoluthon is a “syntactical inconsistency or incoherence within a sentence; especially :  a shift in an unfinished sentence from one syntactic construction to another (as in you really ought—well, do it your own way)”.

An anacoluthon is the Greek equivalent to the Latin’s non sequitur (the plurals: anacolutha and non sequuntur).

I’d like to give an example before I…oh, I’ll just write an example now.

2LD: Ad Hominem & Adage

As far as literarydevices.net is concerned, the literary device of “ad hominem” is the same as the logical fallacy:

An ad hominem is a verbal attack on a person rather than the person’s argument.  It is logically unsound, but it is generally effective, because it attacks the person’s ethos (rather than logos), engages the audience’s pathos, and enrages the person’s pathos and pride.  They defend themselves instead of discussing further the argument, and by doing so, they just play into the hands of the logically fallacious.

An ad hominem argument is as follows:

“How can you argue your case for vegetarianism when you are enjoying your steak?”

My example is as follows:

“Clean your room, it’s dirty” said the parent.
“You didn’t clean your room.  You’re a hypocrite,” said the child.

Calling out hypocrisy is irrelevant to the argument that one’s room needs to be cleaned because it’s dirty.


As with ad hominem, adages are simple.  An adage is “a short, pointed and memorable saying based on facts, and is considered a veritable truth by the majority of people.”  Literarydevices.net claims that there is a difference between adages and proverbs, but I disagree, as does dailywritingtips.com.  As that website points out, “English possesses dozens of nouns that mean ‘short sayings that encapsulate truth or wisdom passed on from previous generations.'”

Examples of adages are as follows:

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”

“Things are not always what they seem.”

An adage isn’t something I can just write, but one that I thought of that wasn’t on any of the websites I consulted is a bit of wisdom I hear from managers at restaurants:

Time to lean, time to clean.

2LD: Accumulation & Adynaton

2LD posts will be featuring two literary devices. My goal is to learn all of these.  It is personally satisfying knowing the names and even the existence of these techniques, but more than that, knowing the word helps explain the beauty.  All of the times we think a sentence sounds superb, there is at least one literary device at work.  It is my goal to recognize and use them often.

First up is “accumulation.”  Accumulation is the rhetorical act of piling up a description for a single purpose.

Of all the examples I’ve found online (1, 2, 3, 4), I found 4 the most useful:

In the following examples, scattered arguments are gathered and presented together to make the point compact and forceful.

  • “He is the betrayer of his own self-respect, and the waylayer of the self-respect of others; covetous, intemperate, irascible, arrogant; disloyal to his parents, ungrateful to his friends, troublesome to his kin; insulting to his betters, disdainful of his equals and mates, cruel to his inferiors; in short, he is intolerable to everyone.” Attributed to Cicero,Rhetorica ad Herennium, IV.52
  • “A generation goes and a generation comes, yet the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and rushes back again to the place from which it rises. The wind blows south, then returns to the north, round and round goes the wind, on its rounds it circulates. All streams flow to the sea, yet the sea does not fill up.”   (Ecclesiastes, The Old Testament)

The repetition of description (the accumulation) is aimed at one purpose for each of these examples: in the first, the character is clearly no bueno; in the second, nature moves in cycles.

As with all of these 2LD posts, I’ll make my own example.  This example will be a meta-example, an explanation of the literary device AND an example of it in use:

Accumulation is the piling up, the stacking, the heaping of useful description

The gerunds (piling up, stacking, heaping) all mean the same thing, but they add to the description by emphasizing the quantity.


That was accumulation.  Now on to adynaton.

First off, how is it pronounced and where does this word come from?  As far as I can tell, it is pronounced a (cat) + dee + na (name) + tin.  Adeenatin.  It is a compound word from Ancient Greek meaning “without” + “I am able”.

As an English literary device, it is a hyperbole (an exaggeration) in the extreme.  So hyperbolic is this device that it would be impossible for the description to be real.

There are excellent lists of adynatons (technically the plural form of adynaton is adynata): 1, 2 .  However, the one that I think will stick in my head the best is this one:

“‘I will sooner have a beard grow in the palm of my hand than he shall get one of his cheek’, —Shakespeare 2 Henry IV 1.2.20-22″

It is physically impossible to grow a beard on the palm of one’s hand.  Therefore, it is an adynaton.

As for my own example, here it goes:

I’m so horny, I could fuck through a brick wall.

Happy literary devicing.