Friday, April 25, 2014

About Zeugma

What is zeugma?

Zeugma is a stylistic device that can sometimes cause semantic confusion in sentences while adding some colorful flavor. It is using a word to modify or govern two or more words in such a manner that it applies to each in a different sense or is appropriate to only one. For example, "Mr. Pickwick took his hat and his leave." (Charles Dickens)

We usually deal with zeugma when polysemantic verbs combined with nouns of most varying semantic groups are deliberately used with two or more homogeneous members who are not connected semantically, e.g., “He took his hat and his leave.” 

Zeugma was often used in English prose of the earlier centuries by many distinguished writers and poets.

The amount of homogeneous or similar parts of speech are semantically disconnected but are attached to the same verb. In such a case, we deal with semantically false chains. These semantically false chains may be considered as a variation of zeugma. Typically, the last member of the chain falls out of the semantic group producing an amusing or entertaining effect. Here is a typical example, “A Governess wanted. She must possess knowledge of Romanian, Italian, Spanish, German, Music, and Mining Engineering.’’ It is essential to remember that we should unambiguously use zeugma to avoid misunderstandings in communication. 

The term ‘’zeugma’’ originated from the Greek word ζεῦγμα, zeûgma, meaning "yoke". It is a figure of speech joining two or more parts of a sentence with a single common verb or/and noun.  Zeugma is created by using ellipsis (the omission of words) and parallelism (the balance of several words). The result is amazing: many similar phrases are joined by a common noun or an ordinary verb.  

Here are a few beautiful examples of zeugma:

He held his breath and the door for me.

He lost his coat and his temper.

The addict kicked the habit and then the bucket.

She bought curtains for him and the window.

Eggs and oaths are soon broken. (English proverb)

Mr. Pickwick took his hat and his leave. (Charles Dickens)

They covered themselves with dust and glory. (Mark Twain)

He wore a black hat and an adorable smile.

He brought her a story and a beer.

He held a high rank and an old notepad.

Zeugma embellishes a sentence or even the whole paragraph, intensifies its magnificence, and thus adds more stylistic color to the whole text.

Transferred Epithet

Newspaper Genres

Functional Styles

Research Topics

Two Basic Fields of Stylistics

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