I. What is Diacope?
Diacope is when a writer repeats a word or phrase with one or more words in between. A common and persistent example of diacope is Hamlet’s:
To be, or not to be!
Here, the phrase “to be” is repeated, but separated by the phrase “or not.” The phrase diacope is derived from the Greek word diakopē, meaning “to cut into two.”
II. Examples of Diacope
There are two basic types of diacope: vocative diacope and elaborative diacope.
Diacope Type: vocative
The simplest version of diacope repeats a phrase for emphasis.
“He’s a good man! What a good man!“
“The horror! Oh, the horror!“
In this example, the repetition of “horror” emphasizes how horrific something is. This can show that a character is emotionally overwhelmed.
Diacope Type: elaborative
This diacope repeats a phrase with an additional adjective or description that clarifies, describes, or further emphasizes a certain aspect of the subject.
Here are a few examples of elaborative diacope:
“He’s my man! And he’s a good man! A good, kind man!”
In this example, the addition of the adjectives “good” and “kind” describe a man that is a moral and kind person.
“The horror! The screaming, terrifying horror!“
Here, the adjectives “screaming” and “terrifying” serve to further emphasize how horrific the subject is.
“He was with a woman. A tall, beautiful, well-dressed woman.”
In this example, elaborative diacope simply adds more clarity as to what the woman looked like: tall, beautiful, and well-dressed.
III. The Importance of Diacope
Diacopae or diacopes emphasize, describe, or specify. Often, diacope is used to express strong emotion or to draw attention to the repeated phrase. It works by making a phrase memorable and even rhythmic.
IV. Examples of Diacope in Literature
In “A Child is Born,” Stephen Vincent Benet makes use of diacope many times:
Life is not lost by dying! Life is lost
Minute by minute, day by dragging day,
In all the thousand, small uncaring ways.
The first instance of diacope is “Life is not lost” followed by “Life is lost.” This is an example of elaborative diacope in that the repeated phrase is clarified or re-defined. Others include “minute” and “day.” Benet emphasizes the passing of time through the repetition of measures of time.
In Growing Up, Russell Baker uses diacope to emphasize a character’s primness:
He wore prim vested suits with neckties blocked primly against the collar buttons of his primly starched white shirts. He had a primly pointed jaw, a primly straight nose, and a prim manner of speaking that was so correct, so gentlemanly, that he seemed a comic antique.
Here, the repetition of primness illustrates and emphasizes this man’s primness in that he is prim in his dress, looks, and actions.
V. Examples of Diacope in Pop Culture
In pop culture, diacope is often used in the form of a slogan or catch-phrase. The repetition within diacope makes a phrase memorable, simple, and rhythmic—all of which are necessary for a great slogan.
Diacope can emphasize a product or an important characteristic of it:
- Maybelline: “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.”
- The Energizer Bunny: “Keeps going and going and going.”
- The Home Depot: “More Saving. More doing.”
Diacope is not only used in advertising. It can be used in speeches, movie scripts, TV shows, and music as well. For example, listen to Katy Perry’s “Roar”. Many examples of diacope can be found in this song:
You held me down, but I got up”
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now
Repetition of “You held me down, but I got up” emphasizes the main point of the song: strength and confidence in the face of adversity. Repetition of “you hear” and “I see it” provides the song with more rhythm.
VI. Related Terms
Similar to diacope, epizeuxis is a rhetorical device meaning the repetition of a word or phrase in rapid succession. Whereas diacope includes an interruption, epizeuxis is simply repetition without interruption. Like diacope, epizeuxis is the use of repetition for emphasis and emotion. Here is an example of epizeuxis versus diacope:
“You’re a bad, bad, bad person!”
“You’re a bad man, a very bad man! Such a bad man!”
Both epizeuxis and diacope are used to emphasize a certain characteristic or subject. In this example, the bad moral character of a man is emphasized through repetition in slightly different ways.
Like diacope, polysyndeton involves the repetition of words. Specifically, polysyndeton is the repetition of conjunctions such as “and” and “but.” Polysyndeton can be used to supply prose or poetry with rhythm, emphasis, and emotion.
“We had a blast! We ran and played and ate food and slept and woke up and played some more!”
In this example, polysyndeton is the repetition of the word “and.” It is used to convey a childlike excitement and enthusiasm.
“We had a blast! We played, played some more, and played again later!”
In this example, repetition is once again used to convey excitement and enthusiasm. The only difference is that “play” is repeated and therefore emphasized the most.
VII. In Closing
Diacope is a useful literary device in which repetition serves to emphasize a certain characteristic or subject. Diacope can be found in literature as well as pop culture in order to specify, clarify, and describe. Diacope can also be used to express strong emotion.