Figure Name arrangement
Source Johnson (1903) ("arrangement (or collocation)")
Earliest Source
Synonyms collocation
Type None
Linguistic Domain

1. Arrangement (or Collocation).—When a writer has chosen the proper words to express his ideas, it is important that he give them the true arrangement in the sentence, both for accuracy and for elegance. Often the grammatical relations of the words may be precisely the same in two arrangements,
and may be unquestionable, and yet the meaning or impression conveyed be different. That, which is good as grammar may be poor as rhetoric. Sometimes the rhetorical effect depends so much on euphony or on a musical flow of the sentence that the logical arrangement may be sacrificed to that consideration. (Johnson, 40)


1. A good example of this may be seen in Burke's famous exclamation: "What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue!" After we have been declared to be shadows, it makes no difference what we pursue, or whether we pursue anything. The strictly logical expression of Burke's thought would be: "What shadows we pursue, and indeed we ourselves are nothing more than shadows!" But this would destroy the poetic effect that his form of expression gives it; and in the utterance of such thoughts a poetic efifect is always desirable. If Jefferson had simply written
that all men have an inalienable right to life and liberty, he would have said (grammatically and logically) all that he does say in the most famous passage
of the immortal Declaration; for if we give a man life and liberty, the privilege of pursuing happiness is necessarily included, and he will pursue it without any special permission or declaration. But when, by the highest art of rhetoric, he added
"the pursuit of happiness," he gave the whole passage a poetic effect that challenged attention, pleased the ear, and keeps it fresh in the memory of successive generations. A simple statement that all men are entitled to life and liberty would have produced no such effect. Clauses placed or related improperly often cause only a smile, but sometimes they actually mislead the reader. A speaker at a public dinner is reported as saying: "Though born in Ohio, my ancestors were natives of New England." He meant: "Though I was born in Ohio, my ancestors were natives of New England." At another public dinner an eminent Cabinet officer
said: "You forget the romance of Alice Southworth's coming over from England to wed the young widower, Bradford, who had loved her when a girl among the English hawthorns." He meant that Bradford had loved her when she was a girl. A paragrapher writes: "Among the Chinese a coffin is considered a neat and appropriate present for an aged person, especially if in bad health," which provokes the reader to ask what are the symptoms of bad health in a coffin. Irving, writing of Shakespeare, says: "In this harebrained exploit we are told that he was taken
prisoner." Plainly he should have written, "We are told that in this harebrained exploit he was taken prisoner." Carlyle, in Past and 'Present, writes: "Who can despair of Governments that passes a Soldiers' guard-house or meets a red-coated man on the streets?" He should have written: "Who that passes a soldiers' guard-house or meets a red-coated man on the streets can despair of governments ?" No arrangement of a sentence could be worse than this, from Macaulay's History of England, Chapter IV: "This man had, with great risk to himself, saved the King's life after the battle of Worcester, and had, on that account, been, ever since the J Restoration, a privileged person." As Macaulay is said to have been in the habit of correcting his work carefully and many times over, it is strange that he did not rewrite this sentence so as to make it read: "This man, with great risk to himself, had saved the King's life after the battle of Worcester, and on that account, ever since the Restoration, he had been a privileged person." Herbert Spencer, in his Philosophy of Style, writes this unnecessarily awkward sentence: "There is one peculiarity of poetry conducing much to its effect—the peculiarity which is indeed thought its characteristic one—still remaining to be considered: we mean the rhythmical structure.'' This would be improved if it were written: "One peculiarity
of poetry, which conduces much to its effect and indeed is usually thought to be its characteristic peculiarity, remains to be considered: we mean its
rhythmical structure." Hamerton writes: "Turner was led about this time to work heartily and hopefully at a kind of scenery which he always very much liked." At first
reading it might appear as if "about" were an adverb modifying "led," instead of a preposition governing "time." A better collocation would be, "About this time Turner was led," etc. Tennyson, in his Idyls of the King, is compelled by the exigencies of the rhythm to call the famous Round Table " the Table Round," which is awkward English and destroys the beauty of the name. Similarly, Holmes, in one of his spirited war lyrics, is obliged to reverse the familiar phrase "now or never," making it "never or now," which is unnatural, illogical, and ineffective. (Johnson, 40-43)

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Last Editor Ioanna Malton
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