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I learned recently about zeugmas, and they make me happy because I didn't know they were a thing with a name.

A zeugma connects parts of sentences with the same verb. It comes from a Greek root meaning a joining or a bond.

I like the pronunciation, too: ZOOG-muh.

Zeugmas come in different hues. A prozeugma is a row of phrases in which the verb used first is implied in the other parts of the sentence.

Here's an example from 16th-century English writer George Puttenham.

Her beauty pierced mine eye, her speech mine woeful heart, her presence all the powers of my discourse.

He doesn't rewrite the verb "pierce," but he intended to use it throughout the sentence.

Here's a more down-to-earth example:

She was upstairs, and her husband downstairs.

The hypozeugma uses the verb at the end, but that verb applies to two or more phrases before it. Here's a familiar example from William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears ...

A mesozeugma uses the verb in the center of the sentence.

First the alarm rang, then the doorbell.

The zeugmas that are the most entertaining use different senses of a verb in the same sentence.

From Alexander Pope:

The queen of England sometimes takes advice in that chamber, and sometimes tea.

From Charles Dickens:

She looked at the object with suspicion and a magnifying glass.

Miss Bolo went home in a flood of tears and a sedan chair.

From Amy Tan:

We were partners, not soul mates, two separate people who happened to be sharing a menu and a life.

And here's a particularly good one from Tim O'Brien, in The Things They Carried.

But Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried 34 rounds when he was shot and killed outside Than Khe, and he went down under an exceptional burden, more than 20 pounds of ammunition, plus the flak jacket and helmet and rations and water and toilet paper and tranquilizers and all the rest, plus an unweighed fear.

Even movies use zeugmas, like this line from Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) in Addams Family Values: "I live in shame ... and the suburbs."

The zeugmas are a lesson in how many meanings a verb can have. Seeing how the verbs act in the same sentence makes you stop and appreciate the clever juxtaposition. I'll admit that sometimes devices that call attention to themselves can be annoying. But when they're done well, they teach us a little about the language.

I'm new at this, but I tried to come up with a few examples.

Tatiana tried diplomacy and the guacamole.

Darren dropped 15 pounds and the attitude.

Nigel lost his phone and his cool.

Lori jogged her memory and 10 times around the track.

Laura knitted a gorgeous shawl and her brows.

He forced a smile and the stuck door.

Carefully, Georgette measured her words and the table's dimensions.

At the piano, Tony tickled the ivories and her fancy.

Amy caught a cold and an earful from her mom for being late.

Dictionaries and people who study words can't agree (surprise!) on whether a zeugma is also a syllepsis, another literary device.

Some say the two are synonyms. Some say a zeugma adds a humorous note; others say, nope, only the syllepsis is meant to be amusing. Still others note other differences between the two. I'm not sure how two devices develop into such similar, sometimes overlapping forms.

Oh, Zeugma is also an ancient city in the southern part of Turkey. I read in the Hurriyet Daily News (a fantastic name for a newspaper) that mosaics were found during an excavation late last year. I am 99 percent sure the city has never been nor ever will be called "Syllepsis."

If you can think of a funny zeugma, please email it to me.

IDIOMS IN REAL LIFE

Just a few days after I wrote a column on idioms, I was out to dinner with visiting friends. The husband noticed the wide selection of whiskey on the menu. He said to his wife, "This menu has your name written all over it!"

Their younger son, 5-year-old Soren, was puzzled. "Where's your name, Mom? I don't see it." He showed the menu to his big brother, 11-year-old Jack, and moved his finger and eyes up and down it. "Do you see Mom's name, Jack?"

Try explaining "literally" versus "figuratively" to a kid.

Sources: englishlanguageterminology.org, Brigham Young University, Merriam-Webster, thoughtco.com, Wordsmith.org, American Heritage Dictionary, Brigham Young University, literary-devices.com, Carson-Newman University

bkwordmonger@gmail.com

ActiveStyle on 11/26/2018

Print Headline: Zeugmas give verbs a workout

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