The act of communication is a tying together, wouldn’t you agree? Like the ligature between the o and e as œ, a joining of two entities into one common sound? After all, communication traces back to Latin communis, meaning ‘common’ as in ‘have in common’ – that’s self-evident, right?

If someone asks you a rhetorical question that presumes your answer, do you feel included? Does it give you a sense of mutuality? If a salesperson says “Who could ask for anything more?” or a friend caps a peroration with “Do you see what I mean,” do you feel that something common has been formed between you? Is there mutuality? Or do you feel, on the contrary, that there is a one-way passage between you, with corridors preventing freedom of movement on your part? How could that be mutual, really?

Now, if I came up with the Greek equivalent for communication, you would expect it to express mutuality, yes? If I give you a word made from ἀνά ana ‘back’ and κοινοῦν koinoun ‘make common’, would you expect it to signify anything other than mutuality or reciprocality? And if that word, ἀνακοίνωσις, passed through Latin into English as anacœnosis, what would you expect of it?

Well, we can agree you wouldn’t say it like the Greek, yes? With the English pronunciation shifts, you wouldn’t expect anything other than “ana-see-no-sis,” would you? But since we already have a word communication, would you wonder whether it came in to serve some at least slightly different function? Given the ligature and the length of this lexical anaconda, wouldn’t something more technical and showier be more suitable? And yet wouldn’t it be ironic if that sense were an artificial mutuality, an undermining of real commonality in communication?

Now, you’re familiar with rhetoric, aren’t you? Do you know how there are fancy terms for things people do all the time without knowing the fancy term for them? Do you want to know what the term is for asking a question that expects no real answer but forces the other person into agreement or leads to a forced response? Can’t you guess by now what it is?

One response to “anacœnosis

  1. As a person who works in the diplomatic corps, this is a brilliant piece and gives great pause!

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