EVEN MORE WORDS
Anadiplosis (Devices V)
Paronomasia et al
Symploce et al.
Legal Words I
Legal Words II
Legal Words III
Bill Long 12/22/04
Making Distinctions--Once Again
One of the reasons why there is not consistency in the rhetorical tradition regarding what to call various literary phenomena is that many people come upon the same phenomenon and just decide to give it different names. Often the two (or more) Latin/Greek words used describe something are often themselves synonyms, with very fine distinctions between them. This is the case with the words for today. The Greek tradition knows one rhetorical term for "counting," and that is aparithmesis, which appears as early as Xenophon and Aristotle and as late as the fourth century CE Emperor Julian to mean "reckon" or "enumerate." But the term became split into two Latin terms, dinumeratio and enumeratio, both of which came into English as dinumerate and enumerate, and still can be found in the rhetorical handbooks (such as Lanham's) as dinumeratio and enumeratio. According to the OED, the difference between these terms is that dinumeration stresses the "act of numbering one by one" (so that, in fact, if you wanted to 'enumerate' three reasons, you actually are dinumerating them), while enumeration originally suggested "the action of ascertaining the number of something," such as a census. But this distinction is too fine for human minds, and enumerate soon picked up the meaning of "mention (a number of things or persons) separately." Thus, as we used to say in theology when trying to understand fifth century CE discussions of the various wills or persons in Christ, "sometimes there can be a distinction without a difference." I think that is what we have here. The distinction has collapsed. And enumerate/enumeration won the day.
After I have just been so kind as to remove a difficulty, however, the rhetorical tradition confuses us once again because it gives dinumeratio as the basic rhetorical term for enumeration [Actually it is more complicated than this. Lanham stresses dinumeratio, with a long note trying to explain how the two are related--A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd Ed, 55-56, while Burton, in his online rhetoric, puts all his eggs in the enumeratio basket]. The power of dinumeratio/enumeratio rests in the impression given by the speaker that s/he has thought through an issue very thoroughly and has X number of things to say about it. People in general don't have time to think. Many lack the capacity to put things into nicely ordered lists. Anyone who can boil things down into two or three succinct, well-ordered points has a rhetorical leg up in a discussion. "I have three things to say in response to your question. First....Second..Third..." The ability to argue in this way serves as almost a burden-shifting device (as we say in law), which requires the other person now to respond to the way you have decided to define the world.
A Biblical Example
I owe this example to Henry Peacham who, in his Garden of Eloquence (1577) enumerated (or did he dinumerate?) dozens of figures which he, following Quintilian and the Latin tradition, divided into tropes and schemes. He defined dinumeratio as "when we number up many things for love of amplifying," and then gave the example of Paul in II Cor. 11. That passage appears in a distinct section of II Corinthians (10-13) that some scholars see as having circulated independently before being connected to the present II Cor 1-9. Be that as it may, Paul's tone in II Cor 10-13 is feisty and defensive. He reaches rhetorical heights in his self-defense that he rarely reaches in his other epistles. In II Cor 11 he compares himself to other so-called "super apostles" and says,
"are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelistes? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman--I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked (II Cor 11:22-25)."
Though he doesn't actually count out and tell us about the floggings or beatings, he has skillfully enumerated them. And then he concludes this amazingly self-revelatory outburst with brilliant examples of anaphora:
"in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters (v. 26)."
This passage alone is worth the price of a New Testament.
The next mini-essay will provide a few more examples of dinumeratio, but I close this one with yet one more distinction, this time made by Peacham. He cautions us to distinguish dinumeratio from congeries, for "Congeries heapeth up words, and this [i.e., dinumeratio] sentences." The biblical example of congeries he provides is also from St. Paul. In writing to the Galatians, Paul "heaps up" the "works of the flesh" and the "fruit of the Spirit." With respect to the former, he says:
"Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmityies, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these (Gal 5:19-21)."
Even though we would probably call this list an enumeration, Peacham sees it as a congeries. Well, now you know the debate, the terms and a few examples. Go and speak boldly.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long