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What is this phenomenon called?

Is it common in all English-speaking countries?

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2 Answers 2

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The omission of conjunctions is officially called asyndeton. Greek deo = "to tie, to bind" (just like Latin iungo in conjunction); syn = "together (with)"; a = "non-". A syndeton is a conjunction; asyndeton is "non-conjunction". That is what the omission of conjunctions for rhetorical effect or otherwise has been called since Antiquity.

I believe it is quite common in most European languages, both in headlines for brevity and in literature as a figure of speech. It can also be a natural and quite neutral feature of ordinary texts, with hardly any special effect. You will find it in speech as well.

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    +1 for dipping into that big grab-bag of rhetorical devices. I'll only add that according to Farnsworth, the connection of items "by commas alone may emphasize the relationships between them ... [and] create a sense of acceleration" suitable for a news headline.
    – Robusto
    Commented Mar 6, 2011 at 2:30
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    The use of commas in headlines to replace "and" is far more common in the US than the UK (though it is on the increase there too). I found it very confusing the first few times I came across it...
    – psmears
    Commented Mar 6, 2011 at 10:03
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Headlines, like speech, tweets, and book titles, are often not made of full, grammatical sentences. It's a method of saving space while retaining readability; the "and" is usually replaced by a comma, as in "Site Answers Questions about Cooking, English, Gaming".

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