I learnt a new word today: syllepsis.

A syllepsis is a specific type of zeugma, which begs the question: what’s a zeugma.

A zeugma is a figure of speech in which multiple parts of a sentence are joined with a single verb or noun.

Family, religion, friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business.

The verb is operating on three objects, but means something subtly different in each case.

A syllepsis (also known as a semantic zeugma) is a zeugma in which the grammar becomes stilted, either because of a change in meaning or through a grammatical inconsistency.

He carried a strobe light and the responsibility for the lives of his men.

She lowered her standards by raising her glass.

The sky—and my hopes—is falling.

Syllepses are intended constructs. And I rather like them.

Posted by Dan, 6 April, 2012 under Grammar


  • I got as far as “The verb took” – but then I couldn’t find the verb “took”. So I got very confused instead, and kinda lost the thread of the rest of it.

    Posted by Paul, 6 April, 2012, 10:06pm

  • I have amended my blogpost and my ways.

    Posted by Dan, 6 April, 2012, 10:15pm

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