, as well as being a useful Scrabble® word, is simply the name used when one word serves two different purposes in the one sentence. Usually, one of the senses is literal and the other metaphorical. For example:
- The room and her mood grew dark.
- The mountains and my spirits were high.
In these examples, the adjectives dark
literally describe the room and the mountains. They are used metaphorically to describe her mood
and my spirits
Zeugma can be an effective and efficient way to link very different concepts. If these sentences had been written without zeugma, their impact is not as great. For example:
- The room grew dark and she became unhappy.
- The mountains were high and I was high-spirited.
Both adjectives and verbs
can be used for zeugma. Some of the better-known examples from literature use verbs:
- They . . . covered themselves with dust and glory. (Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)
- He was alternately cudgelling his brains and his donkey when, passing the workhouse, his eyes encountered the bill on the gate. (Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist)
Zeugma is sometimes also called syllepsis
(another good Scrabble® word). While you probably won’t need to use zeugma every day, it was worth remembering that it can be an effective way to create a memorable sentence.
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Photos: dark room by Viktor Mogilat, mountains by Antonio Grosz, both on Unsplash.