Ass and Name
Zola and Zoilus
A few Neos
What's in a Nem?
Pleo III-Two More Pleons
Achron.. and Acroam..
Per IV--Perpotation et al.
Per and Pre--Prevenient
Perpense and Perpend
Epi I--Epiplexis, et al.
The Doric Column
Epi III--Episemon et al.
Beginning with the "Epis"
Bill Long 10/07/04
Greek to Me!
As we embark on our exposition of "epi" as a prefix or the various words in English beginning with "epi" (for which it is not a prefix...see next essay), I realize this is a journey from which I may never escape. "Epi" just has too many colorful or suggestive words associated with it. I fear I may become like the 18th/19th century British philosopher and jurisprude* Jeremy Bentham, who began his illustrious writing career by penning a series of prefaces and introductions and often, in fact, did not get to the "meat" of the issue. But let's start by picking a word.
[*I am sort of coining this term, jurisprude, even though it exists on the Internet and in a few books. The OED doesn't have it. It seems to have two connotations today, one, a neutral one, to describe one who is a jurist, and the other, a negative one (playing on the word "prude" and describing one who makes an ostentatious display of jurisprudential learning), but I will use it in neither sense. For me a jurisprude is one who wants to contribute to jurisprudential thinking. Simple as that].
We are mistaken if we see the root "plex" in epiplexis. If that were the root, it would remind us of a number of ways it is used in English (such as "apoplexy," "solar plexus" and "plexiglass" or maybe, increasingly, a "multiplex" theater) and would mean "weave" or "plait" or "combine." But the word behind epiplexis is epiplessein, meaning "to rebuke" or "punish" or "chastise." Epiplexis is then a Greek word meaning "criticism" or "rebuke." It was taken over into English, however, in a rhetorical context and first defined in 1678 as a "figure in Rhetorick which by an elegant kind of upbrading, endeavours to convince."
An epiplexis then would be a gentle chiding, or possibly a statement that seeks to shame the hearers into performing better next time or to spring into action right now. "His epiplectic address to the crowd backfired on him." Or, "epiplexis is one of the strongest motivators known to us." Or, to use words that we might be more familiar with, "Don't get apoplectic over his epiplectic fit." Also you need to distinguish epiplectic from epileptic. The latter literally means to "take over" or "take upon," and refers to a disease of the nervous system characterized by serious paroxysms. The condition just "takes upon" a person and often leads to falling on the ground and passing out. It was known in English of a few centuries ago as the "falling sickness."
Ultimately, it seems to me that epiplexis is really a form of asteism--a gentle way of trying to persuade others to see things your way and act accordingly.
While we are on rhetorical terms, we might as well dispose of two more. Epistrophe literally means a "turning" or "turning upon," and is associated with a repeated repetition of a word at the end of a line of text. Examples flood the Internet, since this is one of the easiest rhetorical devices to spot. I was delighted to see that one of the OED citations was from the 17th century scholar Thomas Hobbes, whom we normally associate with political theory rather than rhetoric. Nevertheless, in 1679 he wrote a long work called The art of rhetoric, with a discourse of the laws of England in which he said, "Repetition of the same sound in the end is called Epistrophe, a turning to the same sound in the end." The famous biblical example from St. Paul in I Cor 13 is an illustration: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child."
Most scholars define epiphora (litearlly "bringing to or upon") similarly, though it also has a medical application that is affecting. It means "a sudden afflux of humors, especially a superabundant flow of tears." These tears that flow can be something that has nothing to do with emotion and everything to do with physiology, but also can suggest an emotional release which is accompanied by tears. Using it in its rhetorical sense, a 17th century author defines it as a device "in which one word is repeated at the end of several Sentences, but differs from Epistrophe, in that it hath respect chiefly to the Matter." What that might mean is not clear to me. So, let's say they are synonymous, but I would like to confine epiphora to its physiological/emotional connotation--to express a "flood of tears." When we realize that an epiphany is a revelation of God, we might have an epiphoric epiphany if it brings a flow of tears, or a phobophoric epiphany, if it induces fear.
Let's conclude with one more rhetorical term, a term that is rarely used but presents a powerful persuasive tool. This word, rather than epiplexis, is derived from the Greek "epiploke," which is taken from the verb "epiplekein," meaning to "weave" or "plait." Therefore, one who uses epiploce "weaves" the sentences together. Specifically this refers to a use of the same word to begin the second clause as ended the first clause. The OED defines it as follows: "A figure of rhetoric, by which one aggravation, or striking circumstance, is added in due gradation to another." The result is a sort of stair-wise construction that helps in building to a peroration or powerful conclusion. An online example: "He not only spared his enemies, but continued them in employment; not only continued but advanced them."
The more usual term for this device is anadiplosis (literally a "doubling back"), where the speaker, as it were, doubles back and picks up the last thought before proceeding to the next. I still think that the Apostle Paul's use of this device is the most memorable. In Romans 5, he says that "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." It presents a wonderful rising crescendo of confident phrases.
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long