Data points: zeugma 11/19/10

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.

One Response to “Data points: zeugma 11/19/10”

  1. mollymooly Says:

    The first interpretation of the emboldened sentence that came to my mind was “Of all my relatives, I am the one who likes sex the best; of all my relatives, Eric is the one I like least.” That would have been a zeugma of syntax rather than semantics.

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