We have the Parenthesis disease in our literature, too; and one may see cases
of it every day in our books and newspapers: but with us it is the mark and
sign of an unpracticed writer or a cloudy intellect, whereas with the Germans
it is doubtless the mark and sign of a practiced pen and of the presence of
that sort of luminous intellectual fog which stands for clearness among these
people. For surely it is not clearness -- it necessarily can't be clearness.
Even a jury would have penetration enough to discover that. A writer's ideas
must be a good deal confused, a good deal out of line and sequence, when he
starts out to say that a man met a counselor's wife in the street, and then
right in the midst of this so simple undertaking halts these approaching people
and makes them stand still until he jots down an inventory of the woman's dress.
That is manifestly absurd. It reminds a person of those dentists who secure
your instant and breathless interest in a tooth by taking a grip on it with
the forceps, and then stand there and drawl through a tedious anecdote before
they give the dreaded jerk. Parentheses in literature and dentistry are in bad
- "The Awful German Language," A Tramp Abroad
"Moreover" is a parenthesis when interjected in that fashion; a parenthesis
is evidence that the man who uses it does not know how to write English or is
too indolent to take the trouble to do it; a parenthesis usually throws the
emphasis upong the wrong word, and has done it in this instance; a man who will
wantonly use a parenthesis will steal. For these reasons I am unfriendly to
the parenthesis. When a man puts one into my mouth his life is no longer safe.
- "Private History of a Manuscript that Came to Grief," Autobiography of Mark Twain (University of California Press, 2010)
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