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Zeugma

zoog'-ma / From Greek: "a yoking" 

A general term describing when one part of speech (most often the main verb, but sometimes a noun) governs two or more other parts of a sentence (often in a series).

Zeugma is sometimes used simply as a synonym for syllepsis, though that term is better understood as a more specific kind of zeugma: when there is disparity in the way that the parallel members relate to the governing word (as a vice or for comic effect).

Zeugma comprises several more specialized terms, all of which employ ellipsis and parallelism (among the governed members of the sentence). The zeugma figures are of two types: those in which the governing word is the main verb (in which case these are subsequently categorized according to the position of that governing verb), and those in which the governing word is another part of speech (usually the subject noun).

Zeugma figures: Position of Governing Verb:

  • prozeugma (beginning position)
  • hypozeugma (ending position)
  • epizeugma (beginning or ending position)
  • mesozeugma or synzeugma (middle position)

Zeugma figures: Governing Noun:

Diazeugma - A single subject governs several verbs or verbal constructions
Hypozeuxis - Every clause (in a series of parallel clauses) has its own (different) verb

Examples:

As Virgil guided Dante through Inferno, the Sibyl Aeneas Avernus. —Roger D. Scott
Through zeugma, "guided" and "through" are inferred for Sibyl and Aeneas: "As Virgil guided Dante through Inferno, the Sibyl [guided] Aeneas [through] Avernus."

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Acknowledgement

The above information on individual rhetorical techniques is reproduced from the website “Silva Rhetoricae” (www.rhetoric.byu.edu ) under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence. Credit for this content lies with Professor Gideon O Burton of Brigham Young University.