Congeries: The Piling-Up Strategy in Rhetoric

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Mr. Micawber - congeries
W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber in the 1935 film version of David Copperfield. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Congeries is a rhetorical term for the piling up of words or phrases. Singular and plural: congeries.

Congeries is a form of amplification, similar to synathroesmus and accumulatio. The words and phrases that are piled up may or may not be synonymous.

In The Garden of Eloquence (1577), Henry Peacham defines congeries as "a multiplication or heaping together of many words signifying diverse things of like nature."

From the Latin, "heap, pile, collection"

Examples and Observations

  • "Technically but a salaried subordinate, [Rupert Baxter] had become by degrees, owing to the limp amiability of his employer, the real master of the house. He was the Brains of Blandings, the man at the switch, the person in charge, and the pilot, so to speak, who weathered the storm."
    (P.G. Wodehouse, Leave It to Psmith, 1923)
  • "It's not just a razor. It's a 3-bladed irritation-minimizing pressure-controlling will-make-your-lady-love-your-face-even-more sensitive shaving machine."
    (Print advertisement for Gillette Mach3 safety razor, 2013)
  • "Our experts describe you as an appallingly dull fellow, unimaginative, timid, lacking in initiative, spineless, easily dominated, no sense of humour, tedious company and irrepressibly drab and awful. And whereas in most professions these would be considerable drawbacks, in chartered accountancy they are a positive boon."
    (John Cleese as a guidance counselor, Monty Python's Flying Circus)
  • "Let them call me rebel, and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man."
    (Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, Number I, 1776)
  • "Apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order, what have the Romans done for us?"
    (John Cleese as Reg in Monty Python's Life Of Brian, 1979)
  • "No perfection grows
    'Twixt leg, and arm, elbow, and ear, and nose,
    And joint, and socket; but unsatisfied
    Sprawling desires, shapeless, perverse, denied.
    Finger with finger wreathes; we love, and gape,
    Fantastic shape to mazed fantastic shape,
    Straggling, irregular, perplexed, embossed,
    Grotesquely twined, extravagantly lost
    By crescive paths and strange protuberant ways
    From sanity and from wholeness and from grace."
    (Rupert Brooke, "Thoughts on the Shape of the Human Body")
  • "The pride, ambition, envie, excess, fraude, spoile, oppression, murther, filthie life, and incest, that is used and meintained amongst that rabble of preestes, freers, monkes, channons, byshopps, and cardinalls, can not be expressed."
    (John Knox, The Appellation From the Sentence Pronounced by the Bishops and Clergy, 1558)
  • Mr. Micawber and the Parade of Words
    "'But that won't do,' muttered Uriah, relieved. 'Mother, you keep quiet.'
    "'We will endeavour to provide something that WILL do, and do for you finally, sir, very shortly,' replied Mr. Micawber.
    "'Second. Heep has, on several occasions, to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief, systematically forged, to various entries, books, and documents, the signature of Mr. W.; and has distinctly done so in one instance, capable of proof by me. To wit, in manner following, that is to say:'
    "Again, Mr. Micawber had a relish in this formal piling up of words, which, however ludicrously displayed in his case, was, I must say, not at all peculiar to him. I have observed it, in the course of my life, in numbers of men. It seems to me to be a general rule. In the taking of legal oaths, for instance, deponents seem to enjoy themselves mightily when they come to several good words in succession, for the expression of one idea; as, that they utterly detest, abominate, and abjure, or so forth; and the old anathemas were made relishing on the same principle. We talk about the tyranny of words, but we like to tyrannize over them too; we are fond of having a large superfluous establishment of words to wait upon us on great occasions; we think it looks important, and sounds well. As we are not particular about the meaning of our liveries on state occasions, if they be but fine and numerous enough, so, the meaning or necessity of our words is a secondary consideration, if there be but a great parade of them. And as individuals get into trouble by making too great a show of liveries, or as slaves when they are too numerous rise against their masters, so I think I could mention a nation that has got into many great difficulties, and will get into many greater, from maintaining too large a retinue of words."
    (Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1850)
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Congeries: The Piling-Up Strategy in Rhetoric." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Congeries: The Piling-Up Strategy in Rhetoric. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Congeries: The Piling-Up Strategy in Rhetoric." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).