Why They Name Literary Terms Crazy Things Like Aposiopesis

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Minilesson Essay- Aposiopesis
In writing, authors usually do things for a specific reason, to invoke a reaction from their readers. They use descriptive language so the reader can see clearly; they form metaphors to make readers think. Why they name literary terms crazy things like aposiopesis? That’s beyond me. However, once I found out what aposiopesis meant, I found some interesting things.

In Greek, the word “aposiopesis” means “maintaining silence” (Nordquist). This has been adapted into a literary device many authors use. Really, aposiopesis is just a big word for breaking off in the middle of the sentence without finishing the thought (“Entertainment/Literature/Aposiopesis”). We do this in conversation, purposefully or not, and writers have been doing it for a very long time. In books or articles, this device is usually used during a character’s dialogue. Aposiopesis is usually marked by an ellipsis or a hyphen, showing that the sentence was cut off. Another way aposiopesis can be used is to cut off one character, and let another finish the sentence.

Writers use aposiopesis for dramatic effect. When the sentence is cut off, we automatically want to know what the end of the thought was going to be. It can also be used to give the reader more insight to the character’s thoughts or emotions, such as if someone said “stop it, or else…” This way, you do not need to know the end of the sentence, but the aposiopesis is still effective because it lets you know that the sentence was said in a threatening tone (Pollick and Harris).

Examples of this device can be found in both modern and classic literature. In Henry IV, Shakespeare used aposiopesis when Hotspur and Prince Hal were talking about Percy dying. He wrote “Hotspur: Oh, I could prophesy,/ But that the earthy and cold hand of death/ Lies on my tongue. No, Percy, thou art dust/ And food for--/ Prince Hal: For worms, brave Percy (“Aposiopesis”)”. In this example, the writer cut off the first...
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