Sunday, February 18, 2007


I'm prepping today to teach a colleague's class, and reading a section in the book he's assigned, a chapter on figurative language.

The chapter starts by explaining that figurative language is sometimes defined as language that deviates from the norm. Then it challenges this commonplace to argue that all language is figurative from the get go (like that? hee!)

So basically, all deviant, all the time, baby!

I'm reviewing important terms, including "paronomasia," which is the cocktail party word for "pun." (For cocktail parties, I've always thought it would be important to have a ready vocabulary of fun words. But then, I don't think I've ever been to a cocktail party. My crowd doesn't tend to hang out in fancy dress drinking sherry and opining about the declining state of western civilization--or if they do, they aren't inviting me.)

My favorite figurative trope is zeugma. It's just fun to say (zoog-muh). Zeugma!

I make an effort to work zeugma into my conversations, but unless I'm using wit and words equally well, I fall to new levels of stupidity and the floor, breaking my spirit and ankle. My students are equally unimpressed by my brilliance and agility.

On the other hand, I tried to use hyperbole the other day, mentioning to someone that I have such a poor sense of geography that I get lost in [name of my office building]. It's lots less funny when you have to explain that you've exaggerated just slightly. (And I was too embarrassed to actually own up to the fact that I have on more than one occasion walked out of the stairwell onto the wrong floor and felt quite lost, even walking into the wrong classroom.)

Can you tell that I'm procrastinating about prepping for this class?


  1. I always thought zeugma was zoig-muh. Have I been saying it wrong? Okay, if so, I've been saying it wrong in my head, as I don't think I've ever used it in a conversation, alas.

  2. Ooh, zeugma's my fave, too.

    And yes, Dorothy, strictly speaking it's zoigma (or something very like), but as a recovering classicist, I've embraced the anglicization. Either is fine.

    Also: I realized in class earlier this term that what I had been praising as zeugma was actually syllepsis. Not as much fun to say, though.

  3. I prefer to opine about the decline of western civilization while hanging out around a campfire drinking beer. Perhaps I am evidence of the decline of western civilization?

  4. Bardiac - I love that paragraph full of zeugmas. You're doing what your saying, just like a sonnet or something! Wee!

    And if your building is anything like ours -- with three elevators, each of which serves a different range of floors; possibilities of entering on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd floor; staircases to nowhere; three wings and two courtyards; and a room numbering system by a madman -- then I'd get lost, too, and I usually have a *great* sense of direction.

  5. Er, doing what you're saying, that is.

  6. Not procrastinating--just *performing* zeugma.