This is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you…

11 02 2011

Today’s xkcd, titled “(“, presents what I am guessing to be one of Randall Munroe’s pet peeves.

Can’t say that I agree. I find far more infuriating the lone closed parenthesis, without any indication of where the parenthetical statement might be said to have begun.)


(All jokes aside, when I was in yeshiva, we were once learning a ma’amar by the fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch (who was known as the Rebbe Rashab) entitled “Kuntres haTefillah” (קונטרס התפילה, “or “Tract of Prayer”). The discourse concerned the elevation of prayers through the various supernal realms, and constituted an apt meditation before “davvening Shacharis” in the morning. A great fan of parenthetical statements, the Rebbe Rashab used to drive me nuts with his subordinate clauses within subordinate clauses, and I would be constantly flicking back, counting parentheses, to ensure that we had closed them all and were not still dwelling within a tangential remark.

I do not know if this could specifically be said to be a feature of Ukrainian Hassidut (I am being a little tongue in cheek: I suspect that it cannot), but the Rebbe of Breslov, Rebbe Nachman, was himself a great fan of embedded clauses, and his stories are a testimony to that. Most confusingly, they do not always end back on the surface level. (Those who are particularly interested in texts that embed subordinate clauses, without providing “an exit strategy”, would do well to read Douglas R. Hofstadter’s erudite Gödel, Escher, Bach. It comes highly recommended. The section on subordinating narratives can be found in §5 (“Recursive Structures and Processes”), but most especially in its introductory narrative, “Little Harmonic Labyrinth” (pp103-126))



3 responses

11 02 2011

I think the original digressor is the Gemara with its sub-arguments, sub-sub arguments etc. If I were learning it religiously, the nerd in me would be crying out for it to be written out like code, with proper indentation of logical blocks! Or at least a MS Word outline form…

11 02 2011

I’m so relieved you closed the final parenthesis, eventually! But you are missing a final full stop.

9 03 2011

luckily anonymous posters can close the remaining parentheses in the comments)

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