acatalectic

I wouldn’t say this word is an eclectic catalogue of letters – more a lexically elect collection of selected characters. Three a’s, three c’s, two t’s, and le and i. Its rhythm makes a soft-shoe clatter like the clicking of an IBM Selectric. Now, how would you use it in verse? (I’ve bolded the stressed syllables to make the reading easier, because it changes abruptly halfway through.)

Dactyls and trochees make quick dialectic
when they are mixed and not acatalectic.
If you must write this way so you can show ’em,
watch that you change not the pace of your poem:
A switch to text acatalectic
could cause crises apoplectic;
are (they ask) you messing with ’em
when you don’t truncate the rhythm?

Whether the word acatalectic works with catalectic or acatalectic verse is thus a question of whether you say it with stress on the first a and on the lec (dactyl plus trochee, catalectic) or on the ca and the lec (upbeat plus two trochees, acatalectic). You see, verse is catalectic if, like the first four lines above, the lines drop the last syllable of the rhythm. It is acatalectic if it doesn’t – on other words, if it’s like normal verse that fills out the metre.

So, really, acatalectic is an abnormal way of saying normal, an overfull way of saying complete. It’s a cattle herd where a cow might do. It’s four morphemes, all from Greek: a, ‘not’; cata, ‘off’, lect, from légein, ‘end, stop’ (not the same as the lect related to reading); and that adjectival ic. It’s a word that doesn’t leave off. Unless it does…

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