Thursday, August 23, 2007

Zeugma in real life

Or "syllepsis," if you insist: the fine art of letting a word govern two (or more) words or phrases that would be correct by themselves but end up a sort of skewed parallel when read as a group. The fine folks at Language Log aptly call it "WTF coordination" too, and they note that it's usually used for literary (often wry or humorous) effect, as in this from Flanders and Swann:

When he asked "what in Heaven?" she made no reply,
Up her mind, and a dash for the door.

Well, just because the Times sneaks it into a feature doesn't mean you can syllepse your way through the cop blotter, as the pyem daily in Collegetown demonstrates:

A small roof fire at a retirement center in southeast Columbia caused 46 people to evacuate and $10,000 in damage, the Columbia Fire Department said. No one was injured.

Save it for the [ahem] funny pages, y'all. Just hit the damn ball up the middle in fire stories.


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