It’s a Zeugma (or na-na-na-na-naaaaa)

It’s a zeugma!!

This is a real word and it describes something I do with my writing. Here’s the definition: The use of a word to refer to two or more words, especially in different senses. Examples: “He caught a fish and a cold” or “She lost her ring and her temper.” (courtesy of Anu Garg of A.Word.A.Day, whom I love BTW)

The reason I’m crowing to find this is because the editor who helped me with Train Trip: Lucinda Mae’s Quest for Love, Honor, and the Chickens HATED it when I did this. She did not like, for example: His boss gave him the short end of every stick, probably on account of his being gay, a disservice he took in elegant stride—he used to be a ballet dancer.

I’m sorry to report she talked relentlessly about how hard this was until I took most of them out of the novel.

The editor of The Rambler magazine did not so object. Here’s how I used a zeugma (!) my essay The Secluded Middle Beach, which she published (zeugma in all caps):
Meanwhile, families in driveways lug sandy bicycles and hampers full of dirty clothes. The men fold rusted beach chairs, the women settle paper cups filled with seashells into seat crevices. Out on the streets, the traffic stalls, waiting, while everyone tries to cross the bridge. Leaving the beach, WE GATHER OUR TREASURES INTO OUR SUITCASES, INTO THE TRUNKS OF ACURAS, INTO THE CURVED CHAMBERS OF OUR HEARTS. There they remain, echoing, to be retrieved and examined long after the creature inside has died.

This word popped up because A.Word.A.Day this week is featuring Rhetorical Devices, which sounds seriously intellectual. So maybe my editor thought I was trying to be clever? I wasn’t. I just love the turning of the mind that this use of words requires. It SO fit Lucinda Mae’s character. She views life as very slippery. It can turn on a dime. Just like a zeugma.

What about you? Do you find yourself doing things with your writing that others object to? Have you ever been validated like this? Let me know!

Happy Writing!

A.Word.A.Day, learning new words, revising your novel, rhetorical devices, sentence structure, The Rambler Magazine, validated in your writing, working with an editor, zeugma

Comments (6)

  • Isn’t there a lit journal out there called Zeugma? I think the zeugma (in general) suits your writing tone and style very well. You’ve gotten a very tongue in cheek, humo-serious (ok, I made that word up) voice.
    For me, the one that pops into my mind is playing around with flashbacks, tenses, anything that has to do with how memory works. Some people think it’s wrong to mess with this stuff. I think it’s what writers should be doing. Otherwise, we’re like tech writers or sumpen.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      I Googled it and it appears there was/is a Canadian journal by that name. I got all excited about the idea of sending them work with an actual zeugma in it, but, alas, none of the search results look very current. Plus, it was Canadian.
      I love “humo-serious”! I was going to say something about the humor inside many of my zeugmas but didn’t know if others would see it or not, so there you go. I’m happy to read you use it in your prose. Do you use similar rhetorical devices in your poetry as well, Luanne? Poetry is so suited to word play.

      • I’ve used zeugmas before, but not as well as you do. In my poetry, I use all manner of rhetorical devices, I suppose. Now that I have been traveling so much and am so exhausted I feel very far away from my writing. Sigh.

  • Ellen Morris Prewitt

    I’m sorry to hear about the traveling and exhaustion, Luanne. Traveling wears me out too. I hope you can get some rest and come back to the writing refreshed!

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