What's a Crot in Composition?

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Illustration of Alfred Jingle, Esq., from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (1836)
Illustration of Alfred Jingle, Esq., from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (1836).

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In composition, a crot is a verbal bit or fragment used as an autonomous unit to create an effect of abruptness and rapid transition. Also called a blip.

In An Alternate Style: Options in Composition (1980), Winston Weathers described crot as an "archaic word for bit or fragment." The term, he said, was revived by American essayist and novelist Tom Wolfe in his introduction to The Secret Life of Our Times (Doubleday, 1973). This is one of the few great ways that a fragment sentence can be used effectively — they are often used in poetry but can be used in other forms of literature as well.

Examples and Observations in Literature

  • "New Year's Eve on Broadway. 1931. The poet's dream. The bootlegger's heaven. The hat check girl's julep of joy. Lights. Love. Laughter. Tickets. Taxis. Tears. Bad booze putting hics into hicks and bills into tills. Sadness. Gladness. Madness. New Year's Eve on Broadway."
    (Mark Hellinger, "New Year's Eve on Broadway." Moon Over Broadway, 1931)
  • The Crots of Mr. Jingle
    "'Ah! fine place,' said the stranger, 'glorious pile — frowning walls — tottering arches — dark nooks — crumbling staircases — Old cathedral too — earthy smell — pilgrims' feet worn away the old steps — little Saxon doors — confessionals like money-takers' boxes at theatres — queer customers those monks — Popes, and Lord Treasurers, and all sorts of old fellows, with great red faces, and broken noses, turning up every day — buff jerkins too — matchlocks — Sarcophagus — fine place — old legends too — strange stories: capital' and the stranger continued to soliloquize until they reached the Bull Inn, in the High Street, where the coach stopped."
    (Alfred Jingle in Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1837)
  • Coetzee's Crots
    "What absorbs them is power and the stupor of power. Eating and talking, munching lives, belching. Slow, heavy-bellied talk. Sitting in a circle, debating ponderously, issuing degrees like hammer blows: death, death, death. Untroubled by the stench. Heavy eyelids, piggish eyes, shrewd with the shrewdness of generations of peasants. Plotting against each other too: slow peasant plots that take decades to mature. The new Africans, pot-bellied, heavy-jowled men on their stools of office: Cetshwayo, Dingane in white skins. Pressing downward: their power in their weight."
    (J.M. Coetzee, The Age of Iron, 1990)
  • Crots in Poetry
    "Ah to be alive
    on a mid-September morn
    fording a stream
    barefoot, pants rolled up,
    holding boots, pack on,
    sunshine, ice in the shallows,
    northern rockies."
    (Gary Snyder, "For All")
  • Crots in Advertising
    "Tell England. Tell the world. Eat more Oats. Take Care of your Complexion. No More War. Shine your Shoes with Shino. Ask your Grocer. Children love Laxamalt. Prepare to meet thy God. Bung's Beer is Better. Try Dogsbody's Sausages. Whoosh the Dust Away. Give them Crunchlets. Snagsbury's Soups are Best for the Troops. Morning Star, best Paper by Far. Vote for Punkin and Protect your Profits. Stop that Sneeze with Snuffo. Flush your Kidneys with Fizzlets. Flush your Drains with Sanfect. Wear Wool-fleece next the Skin. Popp's Pills Pep you Up. Whiffle your Way to Fortune. . . .
    "Advertise, or go under."
    (Dorothy Sayers, Murder Must Advertise, 1933)
  • Mencken's Crots
    "Twenty million voters with IQs below 60 have their ears glued to the radio; it takes four days' hard work to concoct a speech without a sensible word in it. Next day a dam must be opened somewhere. Four senators get drunk and try to neck a lady politician built like an overloaded tramp steamer. The Presidential automobile runs over a dog. It rains."
    (H.L. Mencken, "Imperial Purple")
  • Updike's Crots
    "Footprints around a KEEP OFF sign.
    Two pigeons feeding each other.
    Two showgirls, whose faces had not yet thawed the frost of their makeup, treading indignantly through the slush.
    A plump old man saying 'Chick, chick' and feeding peanuts to squirrels.
    Many solitary men throwing snowballs at tree trunks.
    Many birds calling to each other about how little the Ramble has changed.
    One red mitten lying lost under a poplar tree.
    An airplane, very bright and distant, slowly moving through the branches of a sycamore."
    (John Updike, "Central Park")
  • Winston Weathers and Tom Wolfe on Crots
    - "In its most intense form, the crot is characterized by a certain abruptness in its termination. 'As each crot breaks off,' Tom Wolfe says, 'it tends to make one's mind search for some point that must have just been made—presque vu!—almost seen! In the hands of a writer who really understands the device, it will have you making crazy leaps of logic, leaps you never dreamed of before.'
    "The provenance of the crot may well be in the writer's 'note' itself--in the research note, in the sentence or two one jots down to record a moment or an idea or to describe a person or place. The crot is essentially the 'note' left free of verbal ties with other surrounding notes. . . .
    "The general idea of unrelatedness present in crot writing suggests correspondence—for those who seek it—with the fragmentation and even egalitarianism of contemporary experience, wherein the events personalities, places of life have no particular superior or inferior status to dictate priorities of presentation."
    (Winston Weathers, An Alternate Style: Options in Composition. Boynton/Cook, 1980)
  • "Bangs manes bouffants beehives Beatle caps butter faces brush-on lashes decal eyes puffy sweaters French thrust bras flailing leather blue jeans stretch pants stretch jeans honeydew bottoms eclair shanks elf boots ballerina Knight slippers."
    (Tom Wolfe, "The Girl of the Year." The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, 1965)
  • Montage
    "Part of the power of moving images comes from the technique [Sergei] Eisenstein championed: montage. Here the tables turn in the contest between the novel and moving images, for in switching rapidly between perspectives, it is those who share their imaginations with us by writing who are at a disadvantage.
    "Because writers must work to make each view they present believable, it is very difficult for them to present a rapid series of such views. Dickens, with his marvelous alertness, succeeds as well as any writer has: 'the whistling of drovers, the barking of dogs, the bellowing and plunging of oxen, the bleating of sheep, the grunting and squealing of pigs; the cries of the hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling on all sides' [Oliver Twist]. But when attempting to capture the energy and chaos of this 'stunning and bewildering' market-morning scene, Dickens is often reduced to lists: 'Countrymen, drovers, butchers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers, and vagabonds of every low grade' or 'crowding, pushing, driving, beating, whooping and yelling.'"
    (Mitchell Stephens, The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word. Oxford University Press, 1998)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "What's a Crot in Composition?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-crot-1689945. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 28). What's a Crot in Composition? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-crot-1689945 Nordquist, Richard. "What's a Crot in Composition?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-crot-1689945 (accessed February 9, 2023).