Annals of zeugma

From Ann Burlingham, this zeugmatic dialogue from the tv series Leverage (“The Long Way Down Job”, season 4, episode 1, first aired 6/26/11), at 17:27:

(1) Drexel gets paid and away scot-free

(Drexel is the character John Drexel.)

The verb gets here represents two different lexical items, with very different meanings, one in construction with the PSP verb paid, the other in construction with the particle away and the adverb scot-free: the first is the main verb in a passive construction (the so-called “get-passive”, an alternative to the be-passive), and the second is the main verb in a (metaphorical) motion construction.

So we have zeugma — plus a massively non-parallel coordination paid and away scot-free. Overall, (1) is a major WTF sentence, of a sort that is often concocted as a joke, but that doesn’t seem to the case here.

Digression on the adverb scot-free, which would appear to mean ‘free of scot, without scot’ — and so it does, but with a sense of scot that’s no longer in use. From NOAD2:

scot-free  without suffering any punishment or injury: the people who kidnapped you will get off scot-free. ORIGIN from the early sense ‘not subject to the payment of scot’

scot archaic  a payment corresponding to a modern tax, rate, or other assessed contribution. ORIGIN late Old English, from Old Norse skot ‘a shot,’ reinforced by Old French escot, of Germanic origin

Back to zeugma. (1) is roughly similar to another example in my collection of non-parallel coordinations (#17; (1) is #104), discussed briefly in a Language Log posting of mine:

(2) I better get some clothes folded and off to bed. Morning comes early!

This is from a blog posting and was pretty clearly intended to be at least a bit funny. It has a zeugmatic get, representing both a causative verb and a motional one, and a non-parallel coordination (of the “small clause” some clothes folded — with a get-passive in it — and the particle + adverb off to bed).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: