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"a salami - make that three salamis, some cheese... a kilo should do it, and..."

“a salami – make that three salamis, some cheese… a kilo should do it, and…”

Sometimes, if you’re writing an article in a chatty tone,a garrulous tone even, enjoying – ‘delighting in’ would not be too strong a word – the streaming forth (or steaming froth) of wit and wisdom, or words at least, from your pen (or mouth, or keyboard, or-); well, when you’re writing such an article, and are including a list to back up your main point, then, in your high-flown hauteur, a mere tricolon – even a tetracolon – isn’t going to satisfy. Here is Howard Jacobson trying to convince us that his putting on weight is unrelated to overeating:

Yes, I eat bread and drink wine, but I have cut down on cheese, can take or leave champagne, only eat biscuits on trains, only eat cake at birthdays and no more like chocolates than I like carrots, consumption of which I have also reduced.

Jacobson’s list is not a mere list of examples. It is an exhaustive list, or it seems like one – it builds a whole picture of his moderate attitude to food. A list such as this may seem spontaneous, excitedly blurted out without forethought or design; but, on the contrary, a loquacious list, so as not to be sloppy or monotonous, needs a good deal of craft. One example of this is the use of ‘parallelisms’, that is similar or opposing ideas arranged in like phrases, such as Yes, I eat bread, and drink wine and only eat biscuits on trains, only eat cake at birthdays. Also useful is the use of ‘correlating’ constructions – neither X nor Y, not only X but Y and no more like chocolates than I like carrots, Since Jacobson is a writer who is at least as concerned with entertaining the reader as with informing or persuading, his also employs such tools as alliteration, and a good deal of comic exaggeration:

But I still remained more sullen than sunny, didn’t like the feel of my face from the inside, or indeed the look of my face from the outside, when I smiled, and found an echo of my feelings only in sardonic literature and heartbreaking music.

Jacobson’s loquacious lists, ironically, use crafted syntax and poetic devices to mimic the free-wheeling flow of after-dinner discussion (and since he doesn’t overeat, he obviously has plenty of time for that).

Challenge

Write a crafted list of your own good or bad habits.

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