Zeugmoids

Not long before the use of pal in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet that I reported on here came another notable utterance:

If you could shoot off a warhead the way you shoot off your mouth, maybe you’d have a chance.

This has two structurally parallel occurrences of shoot off, but in two different senses — the first involving literal shooting, the second in an idiom:

slang (orig. U.S.). to shoot off one’s mouth: to talk indiscreetly or abusively; to talk unrestrainedly or at length, to assert one’s opinions; to boast or brag. (OED2)

This isn’t exactly zeugma, since no expression-token is being used in more than one sense, as put out is used in Flanders and Swann’s celebrated:

… he hastened to put out the cat, the wine, his cigar, and the lamps

Instead, we have two identical expression-tokens, each representing a different expression-type. It might easily take a moment for the hearer to cope with the switch from one meaning to another. The effect comes about through the phonological identity of the two expression-token — “If you could shoot off a warhead the way you talk a good game,…” conveys roughly the same content, with the parallelism, but without the phonological identity or the momentary processing difficulty — so it’s reminiscent of zeugma.

I offer the term zeugmoid for such examples. Zeugmas in coordination can generally be converted to zeugmoids by repeating the relevant expression-token:

… he hastened to put out the cat, put out the wine, put out his cigar, and put out the lamps

It would be nice to have more real (rather than invented) examples of zeugmoids.

(Thanks to Steven Levine for suggesting a connection between the Tom Corbett example and zeugma.)

12 Responses to “Zeugmoids”

  1. Ben Zimmer Says:

    Rolling Stones zeugmoid: “She blew my nose and then she blew my mind.”

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      To Ben, slapping palm against forehead: this is one of my favorite lines in rock lyrics, which I usually cite as an example of a sly use of lexical ambiguity. Nice to have a categorization to put it under now.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      For reference: “Honky Tonk Women” (1969), words by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Wikipedia page here.

      Of course, Jagger and Richards were deliberately messing with our minds. Don’t know the intentions of the writers for TCSC.

  2. mph Says:

    This post inspired me to write about Extreme Zeugma.

  3. arnold zwicky Says:

    Steven Levine’s interest in zeugma and related phenomena can be gauged by the fact that his Livejournal name is Unzeugmatic. The story of its origin can be found here.

  4. Data points: zeugma 11/19/10 « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] points: zeugma 11/19/10 By arnold zwicky Not just zeugmoid, but actual zeugma (in the sentence I’ve bold-faced): “Are you going to do it?” he [...]

  5. MWarhol Says:

    And also from the Rolling Stones (“Beast of Burden”):

    “You can put me out on the street,
    Put me out with no shoes on my feet,
    but put me out, put me out, put me out of misery”

  6. Dialect in the comics « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] a zeugmoid play on the verb [...]

  7. Getting a phone sex zeugmoid « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] elaborate VP zeugmoid, with get used in four different ways, the last two in sexual idioms (get it on with s.o., get s.o. [...]

  8. Space cadet « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] in connection with the address term pal in an episode of the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet tv show; and here, in connection with zeugmoids on the show; plus Corbett phallic imagery on AZBlogX, here. A summary [...]

  9. paulatnorthgare Says:

    [Sent here from Language Log] The “put out” usage is an echo of Othello, isn’t it? “Put out the light, and then put out [kill] the light [Desdemona]“.

  10. Have an X, have a Y | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] zeugmoid chain, with three different senses of have in successive VPs. The progression in Gypsy is […]

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