Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Here is a word that validates the adage "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
I usually fell asleep before they [my children listening to a made-up bedtime story] did, lulled by my own pump-engine rhythm, but this is Homeric in its parataxis, its telling of the story with no subordinate clauses, accumulating one detail after another, its rapidity, its formulaic phrases taking up reliable positions in the pattern of the lines, its cherishing the memories and heroizing of the ordinary, its love of the shared experience between speaker and listener, its cavalier way with the facts.
Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson

Para + Taxis ... I thought, "I've got this one."

So para- has several meanings: In anatomy para- tends to mean adjacent as in parathyroid, paratracheal, paravertebral. In popular science para- may mean above, implying not, as in paranormal, parapsychology, parascientific. Para- might also mean close, but not really: parasynonym, parainfection. Add to this list is para- as abnormal: paraphila, paranoia.

Something from this list should be useful to decode parataxis.

Now taxis, pronounced tax-is, not taxi-s (many taxicabs). Here is where that little knowledge thing really makes trouble. Taxis is really popular on biology: chemotaxis, phototaxis, thermotaxis. Taxis is about movement, towards or away from some stimulus.

Where does this leave us with parataxis ... no where.

So back to basics. Para- is adjacency, and taxis is position, and parataxis is not scientific, but literary. Parataxis is a literary technique of juxtaposing parallel short sentences without the use of conjunctions: I came; I saw; I conquered.

Short sentences. Nothing complicated. Nothing scientific. 

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