1. Is 'word order' the correct term?

  2. Does anyone know of other examples from the literary canon? I can think of merely one in English from As I Lay Dying (1930):

    I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind — and that of the minds who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.

I'm not disapproving Faulkner's mismatch! I quote him merely to exhibit how the bolded phrase can be rewritten to match time and word order, and to forestall the necessity to reorder the sequence of events

The fundamentalists say it is the beginning; the nihilists, the end;

  • 3
    As was mentioned the earlier time you asked this question (I forget where), it's a misanalysis to see "the end" in the context of this sentence as referring to something that occurs at a later point in time than "the beginning". Jun 4, 2019 at 1:38

1 Answer 1


In literature and rhetoric, this is called hysteron proteron (Ancient Greek for "later earlier"). Probably the most famous example is Vergil's Aeneid II.353:

mori-ā-mur et in medi-a arm-a ru-ā-mus
die-HORT-1PL and into middle-ACC.PL weapon-ACC.PL charge-HORT-1PL
"Let us die, and charge into the middle of the fight!"

The more general term is hyperbaton, which is any sort of "rearrangement" from the way you'd expect.

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