Posted by: Jack Henry | February 2, 2023

Editor’s Corner: Rhopalic Sentences

Good morning!

I was just reading an article by Richard Lederer from the San Diego Union Tribune, about the moon and a lot of other topics. There were too many puns for me to continue reading, but I did note something else he mentioned, and that is the word rhopalic. He defines it as: a sentence in which each word is progressively one letter or one syllable longer than its predecessor. Interestingly, it is from the Greek word rhopalikos, which means a club or cudgel. That term sounds like it was coined by someone who did not enjoy grammar lessons. An alternative thought is that trying to produce one of these rhopalic sentences makes you feel like someone beat you over the head.

Here is Richard Lederer’s example of a rhopalic sentence (one syllable added with each word):

I never totally misinterpret administrative, idiosyncratic, uncategorizable, over-intellectualized deinstitutionalization.

The next few are from various searches on the internet. These are based on the number of letters in each word increasing, not the number of syllables.

Dmitri Borgmann:

I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting; nevertheless, extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality, counterbalancing indecipherability, transcendentalizes intercommunications’ incomprehensibleness.

Richard Elwes

I am not very happy around strange abstract paintings, preferring portraiture; contemporary postmodernism underestimates picturesqueness, antagonistically mischaracterizing bourgeoisification, exhibitionistically, overenthusiastically overintellectualizing nonrepresentationalism.

And from Atkins Bookshelf, increasing by one letter in each word:

  • I do not hunt birds.
  • Yes, they drink orange extract.

And increasing by one syllable in each word:

  • A lucid manager organizes unregenerate, uncooperative antiphrohibitionists’ incomprehensibility.
  • I am not sure angry people readily perceive happiness everywhere surrounding unencumbered, unpretentious schoolchildren.

Who knew such a thing existed? Judging by what I found as examples, not many people. This sampling is about all I could find.

Good luck to you if you try to take on the challenge of writing arhopalic sentence of either type!

Oh, and Happy Groundhog Day!

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams |

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