There are times in the chess game of life when you seem outnumbered, or lack a good move; things just aren’t…

And you look up—a sigh—your pieces sit silent and you feel faint; you feel a feint would be—yes—

Perhaps, to hold your pieces, hold your peace: become silent, take a tacit turn, and just when the other is ready to strike there is nothing to strike at and your opponent’s fist hits—what?—

Or in telling a story: your move may be not to move—guide the reader forward and then at a climax let go, and over the cliff they step, and…

And sometimes in life you simply can’t even. There are not enough evens in the world to can. Words fail you; thoughts pass you. Not to act is also to act; not to say is to let the silence speak. For the moment’s seizure, a caesura; let the lacuna be laconically eloquent, a silence that says all the things that cannot be said and says they cannot be said. Not stubborn muteness but a breaking off in mid-phrase, like snapping a pencil: choke off the voice, suck the air out of the conversation, and then—

This is aposiopesis. It is said “apo sci-o pee sis.” It comes from Greek ἀποσιώπησις, noun, ‘becoming silent’ (those who watch the accents may notice that the Greek accent was on the o). It is that moment when, as the saying goes, the cat’s got your tongue… except it hasn’t; your tongue has flown unseen out of your mouth like a dark silent destroying angel, ready to…

Sometimes, of course, it is a bluff. You don’t want your mouth to write cheques your butt can’t pay, so instead of signing on the line you wave a piece of plastic and hope the other person will give you credit: “If you don’t give that back to me, I’ll—”

“You’ll what?” they say. And then you remember credit comes with interest, and if there’s no interest, well, then…

And sometimes it’s a way to let the conversation wander off to bed, to be replaced by another or by none at all. You’ve played that game out but there’s no great ending and no smooth segue. You need the equivalent of “repeat and fade.” You know? So yeah, you just…

2 responses to “aposiopesis

  1. aposiopesis! What a great word! It leaves me … speechless?

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