The Word: Anacoluthon

I bought my first diary from Wal-Mart when I was eight years old.

I bought my first diary from Wal-Mart when I was eight years old. It had a picture of Barbie and a chihuahua on its bubblegum pink plastic cover, and an utterly ineffective lock and key device. I wrote in smeared graphite, and each line took up three on the paper. My first entry was: “Dear Diery, Today I bought this diery and some candy but I didn’t want to share the candy with my brother so I ate it.” The second entry was: “Dear Diery, I broke my pensil when I wrote Diery.”

Obviously, this was before those English as a Second Language classes really started kicking in. Near the end of the diary, I started writing the lowercase letter “a” like it appears on a typewriter instead of the way they teach you in kindergarten: I was copying my best friend, who was already reading chapter books. It’s a habit I’ve never managed to kick.

I bought my second diary from the school book fair when I was ten years old. It was matte black with a picture of two golden retriever puppies and the caption “Your secret’s safe with us!” It also had a lock and key device, which I religiously utilized until I broke it. I would have been mortified if anyone found out about my searing crush on the quiet, freckly kid in my math class whose paper valentine I kept for years. I wrote in gel pen, and my calligraphy bore an unfortunate resemblance to Comic Sans. This was the first journal where I stopped spelling the word “excited” like “exited.” I was in honors English by then. The sixth grade girl who lived across the street once stole it from me and drew anatomically improbable images in the margins. Bitch.

I bought my third diary when I was 13 years old. It was dark red, fake leather, and had a little black ribbon for marking what page I was on. I started calling it a journal. This book probably contains the most embarrassing written content that I will ever generate and plenty of solid blackmail should I ever become a public figure.

Whenever I read over it, I cringe at my solemn declaration to resist alcohol, at my genuine belief that people didn’t judge you based on your appearance, and at my unfortunate decision to “Say Anything.” There is an especially sharp pain in my heart when I read entries from the Ayn Rand phase, which I usually prefer to skip over as if they never existed.

An anacoluthon is an abrupt change in sentence syntax that is inconsistent with the previous structure. It is considered common in speech and stream of consciousness writing, but a mistake in formal essaying.

It’s the kind of mistake I make frequently in my journal, when I’m not really thinking about how I’m going to end the sentence until I end it. My entries are unfiltered, unpolished, and rambling: Anacolutha are inevitable.

I bought my fourth and current journal when I left for college. It is black, cloth-bound, unremarkable. It’s filled with my complaints about my crushing load of psets, boys who don’t text me back, boys who do text me back, Harvard-related career angst, my mother.

I know that my past two years of college have consisted of more than sad things, but somehow it’s the sad things, more than anything, that demand to be written down. From the most recent entry in my journal: “I could really use some real food.” And later, what follows: “I guess I’d just have to decide if my happiness is worth $4,000.”