Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Grammar: Zeugma and Syllepsis

The Greeks had a word for it – they classified everything, including rhetoric and figures of speech.

The classic examples of syllepsis/zeugma are sentences like this:

She served the soup with a ladle and a scowl.
He left in a cab and high dudgeon.
He lived in hope and Crouch End.

Sometimes the writer or speaker moves from literal to metaphorical meaning, or vice versa:

You, sir, will die either on the gallows or from the pox!
That depends if I embrace your principles or your mistress!

This dialogue has been ascribed to many people from Disraeli and Gladstone to... Read all about it here.

Vigil for Missing Mom Steps up Pressure on Husband. Armed with anger, hope and candles, participants in a vigil for a former police officer's missing fourth wife left a pink placard reading "Where's our sister Stacy?" on the man's porch Saturday. (2007, CNN)

The air was thick with shrieks and fruit. (P.G. Wodehouse on an orange-throwing incident.)

She made no reply, up her mind, and a dash for the door. (Flanders and Swann)

They are sworn to secrecy and to protect the poor.

George III is predominantly remembered for losing the American colonies and his sanity. (Telegraph, 2013)

MissVietnam is my favourite to win Miss Universe 2015 tonight. She comes in peace — and a pink bikini! (William Lee Adams)

Those who confront him end up in the wrong, or Poland. (Nancy Banks Smith)

In 1868, at Walham Green, Edward Colbeck broke the world record for running 440 yards and the leg of a passing sheep. (Lee Jackson/LF)

Newsnight has learned the current clinical lead for the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service – handed a key role in the new services – has questioned the need for change and the integrity of Dr Hilary Cass. (@hannahsbee, 2023)

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday, 22 May 2023

Adjectives 17: Intoxicatingly Drab

An adjective can sum up a scene, a country, a world. You might call it Greeneland.

Intoxicatingly drab. (Matthew Sweet on British B movies)

Places with a breathtaking ordinariness. (imdb on a film made in LA in 1950)

Banal suburban ennui. (Lars Kretschmer on a shuttered Turkish shop)

I found this monstrous featureless building next to the rice paddies in South Korea interestingly bleak. (Daniel Blackburn)

Gray suits, gray filing cabinets, gray skies, gray food, gray childhoods, gray marriages. ( on John Le Carré)

Green Line bus stops. Factory sports fields lined with poplars. Boarding kennels, down-at-heel riding schools, damp bungalows in wizened orchards. I was so happy. Is it still unloved, that landscape? I loved it. (Alan Bennett, The Old Country)

Looking down across the grey roofs, until my eyes for some reason lit on one stony "back" out of the many, where the face of a middle-aged man was presented against a window pane ... I remembered saying to myself with astonishment, "That man is happy—completely happy." (Graham Greene)

Tina Brown vividly conjures "the fading walk-up flats in far-flung London postal codes of former courtiers and retainers": their tables crowded with "tasteful knickknacks," their stair carpets reeking of "downward mobility and pointless, genteel sacrifice." (NYT on Tina Brown’s The Palace Papers)

Luigi's Pin-Table business is delightfully dingy, filled out with slot machines and macabre looking games such as a laughing sailor or Konki The Clown: Fortune Teller. ( on Street of Shadows)

Throughout this novel, there is a certain nihilistic dreariness hanging over all the characters. Goodreads on Georges Simenon’s Lock No. 1)

I love England... The true England of nature. The trees, hedges, grass and lie of the land... But also the transitory England with its railways, towns and lighted streets. And above all, the lit pavements shimmering with rain. (Clement Attlee)

“This is the England of arterial and by-pass roads,” wrote JB Priestley in English Journey, “of filling stations and factories that look like exhibition buildings, of giant cinemas and dance-halls and cafés, bungalows with tiny garages, cocktail bars, Woolworths, motor-coaches, wireless, hiking, factory girls looking like actresses, greyhound racing and dirt tracks, swimming pools, and everything given away for cigarette coupons.” (The Guardian article – about poltergeists – adds “roadhouse pubs and electricity pylons”.)

Outlandishly banal, numbingly tedious, completely devoid of stylistic flair; plodding, matter-of-fact prose; either a postmodern master or a talentless nobody. (Critics on Sylvia Smith’s Misadventures. She said she intended her books to be “hilariously funny”.)

I feel at home in airports and on trains and planes. I have plenty of time to read and "no choice" but to eat junk food. (@adamkotsko)

I really enjoy just existing in hotels. The long identical hallways. The soulless abstract art. The weird noises the air-conditioner makes. Strange city lights in the window. Six storeys off the ground. Strangers chatting in the hall. Nothing in the dresser. No past, but an infinite present. (All over Twitter.)

God I just want to go to a hotel so badly. Just one night! I want to swim in a hotel pool and eat at their overpriced restaurant and then order a nightcap through room service. (@anne_theriault)

Arriving into English train stations makes me think of Eastern Europe in the 70s. (@CitizenNate)

I don’t want to transcend the commonplace. I love the commonplace. (Philip Larkin)

More here, and links to the rest.