Zeugmatic McDonald’s

(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!


5 Responses to “Zeugmatic McDonald’s”

  1. Julian C. Lander Says:

    Is it relevant to mention that, for some bizarre reason, I first read “ear-catching” in your piece as “ear-catchup”? (I know that the standard spellings are catsup and ketchup–the second is my standard–but that’s what I thought I read.)

  2. Victor Steinbok Says:

    Eat shit! sounds perfectly plausible as the antecedent to Eat it! Just compare to “You really stepped in it!” and “You’re full of it!” where “it” occurs in the same place where one may find “shit” in less restrained exclamations.On the other hand, if the exclamation is accompanied by flipping a bird, then the meaning is unambiguous. Unfortunately, we don’t know how the expression was stated in 1903 or whether it was accompanied by a gesture or not. Compare that to “Bite me!”, which is somewhat parallel to “Bite my XYZ ass!” (where XYZ is a modifiers that may be zero) and “Bite my dick!” “Bite me!” is more succinct, but it does not differentiate between different body parts. (But also note the absence of “Kiss me!” while the other two versions are available. Is there a “Kiss it!”?) Then there are more contemporary variations, such as the Simpsons’ “Eat my shorts, man!” or even “Eat shit and die!” Then there are the PG “go” versions: “Go suck an egg!”, “Go climb a tree!” I’ll skip the R- and X-rated versions.

  3. Jeff Zucker Says:

    Perhaps it’s obvious, but there is that second implied zeugma – bite into the sandwhich and taste freedom. I can’t take any more, I’m leaving in a sedan and a huff.

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