You might not know it, but you have probably put a prolepsis into play recently. Did you know that a signature isn’t necessarily a scribbled name on a credit card receipt? You know that classic character that Gilda Radner played on “Saturday Night Live” who’d confuse “violence” with “violins”? Do you know what kind of mistake that is? You probably know what a climax is, and maybe even how to pronounce denouement, but do you know what part of a plot makes up the anagnorisis?
The famous opening lines of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” use the device of enjambment — which is a much more academic way of describing Ginsberg’s speed-fueled run-on lines of poetry. Also, I can now stop faking it when I read or hear the term in media res. I’d always pretended to know what it means, doing that thing where you glide past it while reading, too proud to stop and look it up.
And next time I see a title like “Dead Man Walking,“ I’ll know that that’s a prolepsis. But I probably won’t announce it.