Archive for the ‘Zeugma’ Category

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.


November 17, 2010

Not long before the use of pal in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet that I reported on here came another notable utterance:

If you could shoot off a warhead the way you shoot off your mouth, maybe you’d have a chance.

This has two structurally parallel occurrences of shoot off, but in two different senses — the first involving literal shooting, the second in an idiom:

slang (orig. U.S.). to shoot off one’s mouth: to talk indiscreetly or abusively; to talk unrestrainedly or at length, to assert one’s opinions; to boast or brag. (OED2)

This isn’t exactly zeugma, since no expression-token is being used in more than one sense, as put out is used in Flanders and Swann’s celebrated:

… he hastened to put out the cat, the wine, his cigar, and the lamps

Instead, we have two identical expression-tokens, each representing a different expression-type. It might easily take a moment for the hearer to cope with the switch from one meaning to another. The effect comes about through the phonological identity of the two expression-token — “If you could shoot off a warhead the way you talk a good game,…” conveys roughly the same content, with the parallelism, but without the phonological identity or the momentary processing difficulty — so it’s reminiscent of zeugma.

I offer the term zeugmoid for such examples. Zeugmas in coordination can generally be converted to zeugmoids by repeating the relevant expression-token:

… he hastened to put out the cat, put out the wine, put out his cigar, and put out the lamps

It would be nice to have more real (rather than invented) examples of zeugmoids.

(Thanks to Steven Levine for suggesting a connection between the Tom Corbett example and zeugma.)