Archive for the ‘Zeugma’ Category

What do you have?

November 25, 2018

The One Big Happy from October 12th, a dialogue between Joe and James in which we experience a tiny bit of the fabulous flexibility of the English verb have:


James seems not to have registered the noun hobby (‘an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure’ (NOAD)) and so takes hobbies in have hobbies to be the name of a disease, infection, or medical condition, like (the) mumps. For him, chickenpox and the mumps, but not hobbies is just an ordinary coordination, but for the rest of us, it’s prime-grade zeugma, like (I had) asthma and artistic inclinations — with the extra wrinkle that though both chickenpox and mumps end in a plural-resembling /s/ (and so superficially resemble the PL hobbies), both are grammatically SG:

chickenpox / (the) mumps once was / *were a common childhood disease, but vaccines have nearly eliminated it / *them [SG for subject-verb agreement and also for anaphor selection]

Two notes: on the morphosyntax of disease names; and on the extraordinary versatility of have (which just invites zeugmas and zeugmoids).


A commercial zeugmoid

November 8, 2018

A recent Arm & Hammer Slide TV commercial, ‘Change Your Cat’s Litter’ (viewable in an posting here) exhorts the viewer:

If you hate changing your cat’s litter, then change your cat’s litter.

A cute zeugmoid, playing on two (related, but distinct) senses of the verb CHANGE.


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’.