In rhetoric, a parenthesis (plural: parentheses; from the Greek word παρένθεσις, which comes in turn from words meaning "alongside of" and "to place") is An explanatory or qualifying word, clause, or sentence inserted into a passage with which it doesn't necessarily have any grammatical connection, and from which it is usually marked off by round or square brackets, dashes, or commas according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
(1) Either or both of the upright curved lines, ( ), used to mark off explanatory or qualifying remarks in writing.
(2) The insertion of some verbal unit that interrupts the normal syntactic flow of the sentence.
Plural: parentheses. Adjective: parenthetical.
Etymology:From the Latin, "to insert beside"
Examples and Observations:
- "The English (it must be owned) are rather a foul-mouthed nation."
- "For the vagabond-voyeur (and for travelers voyeurism is irresistible), nothing is not for notice, nothing is banal, nothing is ordinary: not a rock, not the shoulder of a passer-by, not a teapot."
(Cynthia Ozick, "The Shock of Teapots")
- "Parenthetical remarks of this sort--which may also be punctuated with dashes--can be a source of interest and variety as well as of necessary information. Moreover, such intrusions loosen the rhythm of a sentence, suggesting more interesting patterns of speech. The effectiveness of parenthetical remarks, however, depends on their scarcity. Using one in every other sentence costs you whatever advantage the device had, and overused parentheses can become an irritating mannerism."
(Thomas S. Kane, The New Oxford Guide to Writing, Oxford Univ. Press, 1988)
- "In the valley of the jolly--ho-ho-ho!--Green Giant."
(commercial jingle for Green Giant foods)
- "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. (Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.)"
- "If anyone thinks very intently on a single idea, with concentration and sustained attention, he will become conscious of a slight quiver or creeping feeling--it has been compared to the creeping of an ant--in the pineal gland."
(Annie Besant, Thought Power)
- "If you can't hear me, it's because I'm in parentheses."