Archive for the ‘Zeugma’ Category

What room am I in?

October 20, 2018

This photoon passed on to me by Karen Chung on Facebook (I have no idea of its ultimate source):


Context, context, context.


A zeugmoid in high office

January 4, 2018

Elizabeth Joh on Twitter today, reporting this statement from [REDACTED]:

Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.

which she identified as zeugma, though that’s not quite right.


Words as weapons, images as ideas

August 6, 2017

Illustrators go to war:

(#1) Hoover Memorial Exhibit Pavilion, Stanford, 4/5/17 – 9/2/17

Visited on July 19th, with Juan Gomez. Extensive report follows.


A failure of parallelism, sort of

May 22, 2017

In this headline from the 21st:

The crucial part is the NP

(PA) child- and gang-rapes

a reduced variant of the coordination child rapes and gang rapes — with rapes “factored out” of the full coordination, leaving the two-conjunct constituent child and gang. What gives this reduced coordination the whiff of non-parallelism is the difference in the way the factor rapes is semantically related to the two conjuncts child and gang: the first conjunct, child, functions as patient, or affected participant, with the factor rapes (like a canonical syntactic object; in a child rape, someone rapes a child), while the second conjunct, gang, functions as agent, or active participant, with this factor (like a canonical syntactic subject; in a gang rape, a gang rapes someone).

The coordination of patient with agent has a mildly zeugmatic flavor. It probably adds a bit of processing difficulty to this example — and it’s certainly enough to make a linguist like me take notice of the headline.


Leaving, in tears and a portmanteau

June 25, 2016

Passed on by Facebook friends (especially Arthur Prokosch), this Dan Wasserman editorial cartoon in the Boston Globe on the 16th:

Here we are in Portmantexia, a land of words in –exit, –leave, and –out, a land that people want to abandon. The leading family in Portmantexia is the Exits, especially the recently prominent Brexit, towering above cousins Grexit, Crexit, the infant Trexit, the black sheep Texit, and the newborns Nexit and Frexit.


Olneyville New York System

December 3, 2015

Today’s Zippy takes us to the Providence RI area:


There are two Olneyville New York System Hot Weiners [so spelled on the signs] establishments in the Providence area. This one is the first, now on Plainfield St. in Providence. (The second is in Cranston RI.) And I have in fact posted on these places in this blog, in “Wieners” of 10/31/10, with no Zippy involvement.


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.