Thursday, September 17, 2009

Idioms and not

This Onion headline made me LOL just now so I thought I'd post it...  Do non-linguists find these funny?  If so, could they explain why it's funny?  Good empirical question, I suppose...


John Cowan said...

Well, there's a standard Greek rhetorical term for this: syllepsis. So people have been interested long before there were linguists. Here are the lovely examples from that article:

alter cum res gestas tum etiam stadium atque auris adhibere posset. (The other was able to lend not only his achievements, but also his support and ears.)

Here Thou, great Anna! whom three Realms obey / Dost sometimes Counsel take - and sometimes Tea.

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

She lowered her standards by raising her glass / Her courage, her eyes and his hopes.

You held your breath and the door for me.

I got a part-time job at my father's carpet store, laying tackless stripping and housewives by the score.

I took her hand and then an aspirin in the morning,

Oh, flowers are as common here, Miss Fairfax, as people are in London (a pun on common 'frequent' vs. 'vulgar')

The Russian grandees came to Elizabeth's court dropping pearls and vermin.

Are you getting fit or having one?

You are free to execute your laws, and your citizens, as you see fit.

She was a thief, you got to believe: she stole my heart and my cat.

I called her a whore and myself a cab.

lynneguist said...

But lexical semanticists (and other linguists?) tend to refer to this as 'zeugma'.

John Cowan said...

Seemingly syllepsis is a hyponym of zeugma. "I went to Paris and then Rome" is a zeugma, but not a syllepsis, which requires that the yoked parts don't match grammatically or semantically.