The UVic Writer's Guide


Zeugma occurs when a word (usually a verb ) has the same grammatical relation to two or more other words, but a different meaning in each application.

Alexander Pope uses this figure in "The Rape of the Lock" (1714) when "black Omens" threaten the heroine with "dire disaster": perhaps she will err in some respect, "Or stain her honour, or her new brocade." "Stain" has a figurative sense when applied to "honour" (meaning the loss of chastity) and a literal sense when applied to "brocade" (a stain on her dress). Here the effect of the zeugma is comical because of the disparate importance of the two threatened disasters yoked together.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 23, 1995