Thursday, July 22, 2010

"She stole my heart and my cat": great moments in syllepsis

I was imagining highly specific and unlikely Scrabble games, anticipating some moment when I could modify a smug opponent's ZEUGMA into HYPOZEUGMA, PROZEUGMA, DIAZEUGMA, or MESOZEUGMA, or even make a HYPOZEUXMIS of my own--this is why I'm bad at Scrabble--and checked out the Wikipedia page for these rhetorical terms. The examples of syllepsis using idiomatic phrases are a motley crew, from Alanis Morrisette to Antonin Scalia. I want to see some tracked changes of the article to see how examples have been added because Eve 6 was certainly not among my first thoughts for how to illustrate the device:
* You held your breath and the door for me.
--Alanis Morissette, "Head over Feet"

* I got a part-time job at my father's carpet store, laying tackless stripping and housewives by the score.
--Warren Zevon, "Mr. Bad Example"

* I took her hand and then an aspirin in the morning,
--Eve 6, "Girl Eyes"

* "Oh, flowers are as common here, Miss Fairfax, as people are in London."
--Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (Cecily is making a catty remark to Miss Fairfax, a Londoner, by using "common" in two senses, namely "numerous" and "vulgar" as in the expression "common thief.")

* "The Russian grandees came to Elizabeth's court dropping pearls and vermin."
--Thomas Babington Macaulay

* "Are you getting fit or having one?"
--From the television program M*A*S*H

* "You are free to execute your laws, and your citizens, as you see fit."
--From the television program Star Trek: The Next Generation

* "I called her a whore and myself a cab."
--Michael Salinger, "Girl on Girl"

* "She was a thief, you got to believe: she stole my heart and my cat."
--From the film So I Married an Axe Murderer

* "[She] went straight home in a flood of tears, and a sedan chair."
--Charles Dickens

* "Just a dissipated creep who wears a Rolex on his wrist/On her nerves, too much cologne, and down her power to resist./ Did she turn down the wrong hallway, his advances, or the sheet?"
--Bob Kanefsky, "The Girl Who Had Never Been ..."

* "... and covered themselves with dust and glory."
--Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

* "You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff."
--Groucho Marx, from Duck Soup

* Come the (computer) revolution, all persons found guilty of such criminal behavior will be summarily executed, and their programs won't be!
--Numerical Recipes

* My teeth and ambitions are bared; be prepared! - Scar, from The Lion King with lyrics by Tim Rice

* The levees were broken and so were the promises. - Anderson Cooper, Dispatches from the Edge

* The word “Arms” would have two different meanings at once: “weapons” (as the object of “keep”) and (as the object of “bear”) one-half of an idiom. It would be rather like saying “He filled and kicked the bucket” to mean “He filled the bucket and died.” Grotesque.
--Justice Scalia's majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, rejecting the notion that the phrase "bear arms" was used as an idiom in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.554 U.S. ____ (2008), slip op. at 13.

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Blogger J-C. G. Rauschenberg on Thu Jul 29, 02:17:00 AM:
I'm not sure if it counts as syllepsis, but I love these two lines from Berryman that remind me of many sylleptic phrases:

Animal Henry sat reading the Times Literary Supplement
with a large Jameson & and a worse hangover.