I’ve finished the longest section of Ronen’s An Approach to Mandelstam (discussed here), about Mandelstam’s “A Slate Ode,” and am starting the section on “January 1, 1924“; the discussion of line 6, “Два сонных яблока больших” [‘two large sleepy yablokos’] begins: “The prominent antanaclasis based on the multiple meaning of the word jabloko, which is repeated in the poem five times, involves gradual semantic shifting.” (Russian яблоко can mean ‘apple,’ ‘eyeball,’ and ‘regal orb.’) I looked up antanaclasis in Webster’s Third New International and came up empty, but the OED didn’t disappoint: “A figure of speech, ‘when the same word is repeated in a different, if not in a contrary signification; as In thy youth learn some craft, that in thy old age thou mayest get thy living without craft.’ J[ohnson].” However, they classified it as “? Obs[olete]” and their latest citation was from 1711, so I thought I’d google it and find out if it was still in use (other than by the sesquipedalian Ronen). Apparently it is, because there were almost 20,000 hits, the first of which is this entry from The Forest of Rhetoric. The definition there is “The repetition of a word or phrase whose meaning changes in the second instance,” and a splendid example is provided in which “antanaclasis occurs with an entire phrase whose meaning alters upon repetition”: “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.” —Vince Lombardi


  1. If we do not hang together, we will hang separately.

  2. Excellent!

  3. J. Del Col says

    “Please please me.” “Love, love me do.”
    Lennon and McCartney
    “Your argument is sound, nothing but sound.”
    B. Franklin

  4. This should be distinguished from plain old punning, however witty, such as in the following text from an essay by Dewey. He is explaining why memory, to be useful, has to be piecemeal:

    This is the only alternative to what the psychologists term “total reminiscence”, which, so far as total, leave [sic] us with an elephant on our hands. Unless we are going to have a wholesale revivification of the past, giving us just another embarassing present experience, illusory because irrelevant, memory must work by retail – by summoning distinct cases, events, sequences, precedents. Dis-membering is a positively necessary part of re-membering.

  5. michael farris says

    “Love, love me do”
    Okay, for all these decades I thought it was a simple repition of the word love. I wouldn’t have guessed that the first love is a form of address in a million years…
    If we’re in a musical mood then there’s also
    “Love to love you baby” (hopefully no explanation necessary.
    Is there a name for a structure where two words in a common semantic field are paired in a way so that only one has the meaning of the shared semantic field and the other has a different meaning altogether.
    That’s an awkward explanation, maybe some examples from country music (where I think it’s kind of common).
    “it’s just dawned on me what sundown does to you”
    “she’s acting single, I’m drinking doubles”
    “old flames can’t hold a candle to you” (where both terms have different meanings than the original shared one).
    “it’s all wrong, but it’s alright”

  6. I didn’t know ‘sesquipedalian’ means a foot and a half long. I could use it when I’m writing dimensions on architectural drawings.

  7. Is there a name for a structure …

    Montanaclasis. Partonogenesis. Williefluousness.

  8. marie-lucie says

    Love, love me do
    Like MF, I had never realized that the first love was not repetition but a term of address. love me do was unusual enough for me.

  9. “Love to love you baby” (hopefully no explanation necessary.
    Actually, I don’t think there’s enough of a meaning change to make this an example.

  10. Actually, I don’t think there’s enough of a meaning change to make this an example.

    In the ear of the beholder, I think. If it means something loosely like “I approve of approving of you”, no. If it means “I approve of being physically intimate with you”, different story. (“I enjoy enjoying you” is similar).

  11. has the Lombardi example and the first Franklin example. It used to have the second Franklin example, until an anonymous editor removed it, with the message, “The Benjamin Franklin example is not antanaclasis. ‘Sound’ means noise in both parts, although there is an intended subversion of expectation.” Which is an excellent point.
    Wikipedia has problems sometimes, but other times it’s really got the scoop!

  12. ‘Sound’ means noise in both parts,’
    I don’t think it does. In the first instance it is an adjective meaning in good order. As says OED: ‘In full accordance with fact, reason, or good sense; founded on true or well-established grounds; free from error, fallacy, or logical defect; good, strong, valid.’

  13. No, sorry. You’re right Ran. That is the expectation that is subverted.
    Too much exitement in one day.

  14. Or the old joke about why a cheese sandwich is preferable to eternal happiness: because nothing is better than eternal happiness, and a cheese sandwich is better than nothing.

  15. It may just be that I have a bad cold, but my brain hurts when I try to decide whether that is in fact an example. (I personally use a ham sandwich when I tell that joke, but I don’t know whether it’s because ham is canonical or because I tend to eat ham sandwiches for lunch.)

  16. Serves you right for having a single-negation language.

  17. Regal orb is держава in modern Russian, and I’ve never seen it referred to as яблоко before this post of yours. Dal does mention державное яблоко among other metaphoric uses of the word, but it seems to have been obsolete even in his time: while an official description of the Russian national coat of arms from 1667 calls it державное яблоко, one from 1882 uses держава instead. Anyway, I wonder – how did Ronen manage to link it to Mandelstam’s poem?

  18. Ronen seems to have read not only everything M. wrote, but everything he can be shown to have read. He finds verbal echoes in places I never would have thought to look. He probably overreaches sometimes, but his extensive references and quotes are a true education in the history of Russian literature as seen from the vantage point of the acmeists. And any definition in Dahl was fair game for the writers of that period, who reached even further back—M. uses жирна, for instance, in a sense not current since Old Russian.

  19. I had believed “ham sandwich” to be canonical, but it gets only about twice as many ghits: 1210 for “ham sandwich * better than nothing”, 592 for “cheese sandwich * better than nothing”, with some false positives on both sides, of course.
    As for “love love me do”, it seems clear to me that “do” here is elliptical for “do love me”, so “love, love me, do [love me]”, though I admit I never saw the first “love” as apostrophe rather than pleonasm. Could be, though.

  20. marie-lucie says

    JC, it took me a while to understand “love me do” but I eventually arrived at the same solution as you do.
    I think that “do” at the end of an imperative sentence, is perhaps more common in British than North American English, where “please” would be more typically used. “Do” in such cases seems to mean almost “I beg you”. Am I right?

  21. Yes, that’s one of the many Briticisms we Yanks had to learn via Beatles songs.

  22. J. Del Col says

    Here’s another “do” from Tom Lehrer.
    “Fight fiercely, Harvard!
    Fight! Fight! Fight!
    Impress them with our prowess, do!…
    And that first “Love” from the Lads from Liverpool makes no sense at all as mere repetition.

  23. If we do not hang together, we will hang separately.
    Sidetrack: that reminds me that яблоко was also probably the origin for the Nadsat word “yarbles” in A Clockwork Orange.

  24. It may just be that I have a bad cold, but my brain hurts when I try to decide whether that is in fact an example
    I think it is, at a phrase level: “nothing is better than X” can mean either
    having nothing is better than having X
    there is nothing better to have than X.
    Just like “hang together” can mean either “working as a team” or “being executed by hanging in a group”.

  25. I think sentence-final do is not specifically British, though it may be a bit old-fashioned: Mark Twain attaches it to sarcastic requests, for example.

  26. marie-lucie says

    JC: It could be that it is old-fashioned in America but not in England.

  27. I’ve come across державное яблоко, but of course it hasn’t been used much since 1917. Яблоко is also the globe on the top of a churh spire.

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