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One of my favorite movies is Hocus Pocus with Bette Midler.

One of the lines in the movie is "Listen to them not!" Said by one of the townsfolk in the beginning when they were being hanged.

Is this an example of an anastrophe?

The terms aren't inverted from "Do not listen to them" in fact, 'do' is omitted completely.

Is there another term that would suit what is happening in this sentence? Or similar sentences?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

An anastrophe is defined as such:

a figure of speech in which a language's natural word order is inverted: for example, saying "smart you are" to mean "you are smart".

The phrase "Listen to them not!" doesn't strictly invert the normal way of saying this, which you note:

Do not listen to them.

My guess is that the speaker is simply trying to negate a previous order to listen while keeping the sentence as close to the original as possible:

Listen to them!

Listen to them not!

If this is indeed its intent, it would more accurately be called an ironic echo which is when someone turns around an earlier phrase as a Take That.

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If not is indeed an adverb, it can go on either side of the verb.

It's a sentence structure that is less common in modern times. I dare say the script writers were trying to make the speech sound "period appropriate" by using that word order. (EDIT: but as FumbleFingers pointed out, they messed it up a little). They should probably have used something like: "Listen not to them." Which could go on like: "They know not of what they speak".

Search some Shakespeare for more examples

As for omitting the word do, consider that you can equally "listen not" as "do not" or "care not". Also you can "not do", "not listen" and "not care".

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Well played, Brendon - here is another link I found very interesting: bardweb.net/grammar/grammar.html – Rachel Jul 14 '11 at 3:08

This sounds like it could be best described as a modified form of Shakespearean dialect, which is not necessarily an etemology but more stylistic.

Here is an interesting link to some interesting information on Shakespearean dialect:


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Thank you for the heads up, user error of course. I think it works now! – Rachel Jul 14 '11 at 3:12

This looks like a variant of Yoda speech to me. Playing with the word order for effect (in this case, evoking the quaint archaic speech pattern of 17th century townsolk in Salem).

I don't really know, but my feeling is the medieval version would have been Listen not to them if it wasn't just Don't listen to them. Hollywood writers don't always strive for historical linguistic accuracy.

You could certainly call it anastrophe (or inversion - both just mean switching the natural order of words for whatever reason). I usually associate anastrophe with somewhat higher literary literary contexts, but that's just me being snobby).

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but Yoda did it because he didn't know any better (and because no-one would argue with him) – pavium Jul 14 '11 at 4:03
@pavium: Umm... are you suggesting the Hocus Pocus scriptwriters do know better? Speaking as an Englishman, I can assure you Hollywood's attempts at mimicking, for example, 'Sarf London Cockney' speech are often somewhat wide of the mark. I don't complain, but I wouldn't look to them for evidence of dilligent research on such matters. – FumbleFingers Jul 14 '11 at 12:51
I'm an Englishman too, but Yoda was an alien from a Galaxy Far, Far Away. – pavium Jul 14 '11 at 13:10

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