Thursday 10 September 2020


I recently wrote about Gregory Batesons definition of information: ‘...what we mean by information—the elementary unit of information—is a difference which makes a difference...’.  I refered to this as not even a tautology (the saying of the same thing twice over using different words). I was right, it isn't a tautology. 

The phrase 'a difference which makes a difference' is a diacope. This is a literary device formed by the repetition of a word or phrase before and after an intervening word or phrase.

The canonical example of a diacope is in Hamlet: ' be, or not to be!'

The OED describes it as ‘A figure by which two words that naturally stand together, especially two parts of a compound word, are separated by the intervention of another word’ (Webster 1864).  Another famous example is the first sentence of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina: 'Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way'.

Still, my favourite is Bateson's.