Archive for the ‘Zeugma’ Category

Zeugmatic McDonald’s

May 7, 2012

(The 2,000th posting on this blog. How time flies. Like an arrow.)

A recent commercial in a “lunchtime manifesto” series by McDonald’s (“It’s your lunch. Take it.”), here. Two office workers break out, to have lunch at McDonald’s. One declares defiantly:

I don’t want to be chicken.  I want to eat it.

Free-range zeugma, in anaphora. The antecedent is the slang adjective chicken ‘cowardly’, but the anaphoric pronoun it refers to chicken meat. Different categories, wildly different senses (though historically related).

That’s sufficiently ear-catching. But then there’s the intrusion of eat it, which has several non-literal slang senses that are unfortunate in the ad context:

‘perform oral sex’; ‘suffer humiliation’

eat it! ‘exclamation of disgust or dismissal’

Green’s Dictionary of Slang has the first of these from 1963, the second from 1934, the exclamation from 1904. It identifies the it of the exclamation as the penis, but some speakers take it to stand for shit.

The McDonald’s message:

Lunchtime is YOUR time. Bite into a Premium Chicken Sandwich or Angus Deluxe & taste freedom.

Given the rest, I might have avoided bite, with its echo of Bite me!

 

Zeugma: crack

June 28, 2011

Ryan Thomas Riddle, “Saggy pants charges unlikely”, [Bay Area] Daily Post of June 25-26:

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said yesterday that he can’t imagine his office would take a University of New Mexico football player [DeShon Marman] to court over his saggy pants [on a US Airways flight to Albuquerque].

“The only crack we prosecute is cocaine and not pants,” Wagstaffe told the Post.

Even officers of the court have their moments of playing with language — in this case, committing zeugma on crack ‘crack cocaine’ vs. ‘butt-crack’.

 

Data points: zeugma 12/29/10

December 29, 2010

Louie Anderson, as quoted in John Winokur’s “Curmudgeon Looks at Family”, in the January 2011 Funny Times:

Older brothers invented terrorism. “Louie, see that swamp? There’s a monster in it.” So for years I walked way around it. Until I got a little older, a little wiser, and a little brother.

A play on two senses of GET, ‘become’ (in the first two conjuncts) and ‘acquire’ (in the third), plus a zeugmoid on two uses of LITTLE, as a degree modifier (in the first two conjuncts) and an adjective (in the third).

 

Data points: zeugma 11/19/10

November 19, 2010

Not just zeugmoid, but actual zeugma (in the sentence I’ve bold-faced):

“Are you going to do it?” he asked.

“Maybe,” I said.

“Don’t ‘maybe’ me, baby. It’s written all over you. I’d almost be willing to go along, you know. Of all my relations, I like sex the best and Eric the least.”

(Roger Zelazny, The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10. HarperCollins, 1999.  (p. 28) [ten novels collected under one cover]; orig. in Nine Princes in Amber (1970))

So the figure turns on the ambiguity of relations – ‘relationships’ or ‘family members’ — with the word taken in the first sense with reference to sex and in the second with reference to the speaker’s brother Eric. But there’s only one token of relations, which has to be taken in both senses at once.

Zeugmoids

November 17, 2010

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.)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 236 other followers