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I've seen this construction quite a bit, although only in the last five years or so. It's a transcription of a way of speaking, where the speaker is emphasizing something by using a verbal full stop after several words in a row, no matter where it is in the sentence. To wit:

  • Please don't use the "Prologue, then flashback" technique because it has been done. to. death. lately and I am sick of it.
  • "We are going to do this because we were hired to do it, and then we. Are. Finished. Forever. I don't ever want to speak to you again."
  • That episode of The Simpsons? Best. Episode. Ever.

Does this structure have a name? And while we're at it, is there any convention to how the words are capitalized? I used all three ways I've seen it (no caps because it's in the middle of a sentence, caps after every period, three "single-word sentences") in the examples above.

(My guess is that it originated from Comic Book Guy's catchphrase, but that's neither here nor there.)

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I wonder if this is also suited (maybe better suited) to English? – justkt Mar 23 '12 at 11:35
Make one up: Emphasizing periods ;) So I think it originates from the "spelling" use of full stops, like "Read my lips, I said: F.U.C.K. O.F.F!" From putting them behind every character to putting them behind every word in a sentence for emphasizing is only a small step. – John Smithers Mar 23 '12 at 11:40
@justkt: yeah, I thought about that, but I don't think this is about "the use of words." It's a writing technique, albeit a small one. – Lauren Ipsum Mar 23 '12 at 11:57
I think this is a question that would work here or on English. There's nothing wrong with a bit of overlap. – Neil Fein Mar 25 '12 at 15:05
@Kris - like Neil said, it's a fit for both. We have overlap in our scopes by design. – justkt Mar 27 '12 at 2:23
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I would call it aperiodic periods.

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Done and done. That is lovely and hilarious and just sounds awesome. That's a helluva first post, my friend! :) – Lauren Ipsum Mar 28 '12 at 23:18
Doesn't aperiodic mean not occurring at regular intervals...? – Aerovistae Mar 30 '12 at 1:22
But that's just it. You have a bunch of periods in the middle of a sentence where they don't belong, rather than tidily at the end of a clause. – Lauren Ipsum Apr 1 '12 at 0:48

A cursory search yielded a few instances of other people asking the same question on other sites, but no actual technical terminology or guidelines. I agree with LaurenIpsum's comment: I think this is a writing technique which, like all others, is a stylistic choice of the writer. Look at Faulkner's writing-- he left out punctuation, apostrophes, you name it. In this specific case, it seems the writer wants to convey emphasis.

My point is, wield written language and all its acoutrements however you like to get your point across. If the reader manages to understand why you formatted something the way you did and through it gains a greater insight into the meaning of the text, then you just might've made a good choice. Otherwise-- perhaps you're still in the realm of misunderstood genius.

And in the end: No, not every formatting method has been given a name quite yet. I believe this is one such method.

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HOWEVER: That's probably the general sort of answer you'll receive from a writer. I'm willing to bet you'll get another sort of answer entirely if this is posted on the English Language se. They like categorizing. – Aerovistae Mar 25 '12 at 17:24
I resemble that remark. – cornbread ninja Mar 25 '12 at 20:15

Rather than temporal spacing, I think this is more of a technique of emphasis. This is used where you would like to draw the listener's focus to a word or phrase in the (long) sentence.

Sometimes this is purely a dramatizing gimmick, though:

A...n...d, the awa..rd goes t..o.. ...

Not just words, even syllables could be spaced out for the effect.

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No, when you're transcribing drawn-out syllables, you fill in the sounds which are drawn out. "AAAAnnnnndddddd the award goes toooooooooo..." Not the same idea at all. – Lauren Ipsum Mar 25 '12 at 12:54

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