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Zeugma is a figure of speech in which a word, usually a verb or an adjective, applies to more than one noun, blending together grammatically and logically different ideas.

For instance, in the sentence, “John lost his coat and his temper,” the verb “lost” applies to both the nouns “coat” and “temper.” Losing a coat and losing temper are logically and grammatically different ideas, which are brought together in this sentence.

Look at these examples

1: The Holy Bible, Exodus 20:18 (By the Prophet Moses)

“And all the people saw the thundering, and the lightning, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.”

2: Julius Caesar (By William Shakespeare)

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

3: Of Studies (By Francis Bacon)

“Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.”

The above examples of Zeugma show that this literary device may create confusing or dangling sentences. However, if used correctly, it adds flavor to literary texts as it helps produce a dramatic effect. Zeugma examples are also found in literary works of famous writers and poets from several centuries ago, to add vividness and conciseness to their texts.

Few simple examples:

  • The farmers in the valley grew potatoes, peanuts, and bored.
  • She opened her door and her heart to the orphan.
  • He opened his mind and his wallet at the movies.
  • She batted her eyelashes and third.
  • He fished for compliments and for trout.
  • She dug for gold and for praise.
  • The disgruntled employee took his coat and his vacation.
  • He lost his coat and his temper.
  • You held your breath and the door for me.
  • He held his temper and her hand.
  • She made her breakfast and the bed.
  • The addict kicked the habit and then the bucket.
  • She exhausted both her audience and her repertoire.
March 23, 2020
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