The English language leaves plenty of room for communication fumbles, but one of the most hilarious happens with apposition. Apposition, the placement of a second term or phrase after a first to elaborate on the nature of that first term or phrase, is an invaluable tool – but when you don’t treat it with care, it will come back to bite you.
Example the First
For this example, let’s pretend I’m one of those (idiotic) people who don’t use the Oxford comma. And let’s pretend I have a sense of humor, and thus am telling a joke. The joke starts like this:
The lady walked into a bar, followed closely by a duck, a psychopath and a vegetarian.
There are two excellent ways to interpret this. First, a woman walked into a bar, then a duck, a psychopath, and vegetarian followed her in. Second (and I absolutely prefer this one), a woman is followed into a bar by a duck who is a psychopath and a vegetarian (like Hitler!).
Image courtesy of Shenziholic
(I am so happy that this image exists!)
But let’s assume that what we really meant was that a group of four (woman, duck, psychopath, vegetarian) all came into a bar. How would we fix the ambiguity? Well, the first and most obvious way is to use the Oxford comma (so add one more reason to the list!). However, you could also re-cast the sentence as “A woman, a duck, a psychopath and a vegetarian walked into a bar.” The structure of the sentence makes the lack of apposition clear (there would be a comma after “vegetarian” if we were going for apposition, after all).
By the way, now that I’ve started the joke, I’m ever-so-curious how to ends. Leave your punchline in the comments section below for a chance to win my favorite type of cookie, chocolate chip and giant. (I’ll work on how I’ll locate that giant later.)
Poetry was originally a verbal art, with epic poems like The Odyssey being presented and presented down through a purely oral tradition. Now, we’re seeing a return to the oral tradition through the performance poetry scene (commonly known as “slam poetry”). But what’s the value of memorization?
Many people don’t consider a poem a poem unless it uses imagery. But what is imagery?
Imagery is the name given to the elements in a poem that spark off the senses. Any of the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell) can be used. The more concrete the details, the more imagistic it is. So while “She is beautiful” isn’t imagery, “Her hair was the color of polished bronze and her eyes gleamed like amber” would be.
A poet builds concepts metaphor by metaphor. Each metaphor is a bridge leading the reader to more full understanding of whatever the writer is describing. Despite how frequently we use metaphors, however, many writers are confused about the word’s meaning.
(or: why you probably hate looking at poetic rhythm)
Students are typically taught rhythm through “scansion,” which is the process of marking the emphasis of each syllable of a poem. Typically, students are taught two levels of emphasis: unaccented ( x ) and accented ( / ). Scansion is used to identify rhythmic units (known as “feet”), especially in traditional poetic forms like sonnets and blank verse, where the repetition of “iambs” (syllable groupings, such as x /) are an important part of the poetic form.
While there are many aspects of lyricism, alliteration and assonance are two of the most important.
Alliteration is when you have a series of words with the same first consonant sound close together, e.g., Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. Alliterative words can be right next to each other or a few words apart.
Assonance, like alliteration, has to do with words having similar sounds. With assonance you are looking for similar vowel sounds within the words, e.g., Molly donned a shawl for the fall ball.