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Zeugma includes several similar rhetorical devices, all involving a grammatically correct linkage (or yoking together) of two or more parts of speech by another part of speech. Thus examples of zeugmatic usage would include one subject with two (or more) verbs, a verb with two (or more) direct objects, two (or more) subjects with one verb, and so forth. The main benefit of the linking is that it shows relationships between ideas and actions more clearly.

In one form (prozeugma), the yoking word precedes the words yoked. So, for example, you could have a verb stated in the first clause understood in the following clauses:

  • Pride opresseth humility; hatred love; cruelty compassion. --Peacham
  • Fred excelled at sports; Harvey at eating; Tom with girls.
  • Alexander conquered the world; I, Minneapolis.

A more important version of this form (with its own name, diazeugma) is the single subject with multiple verbs:

  • . . . It operated through the medium of unconscious self-deception and terminated in inveterate avarice. --Thomas Love Peacock
  • Mr. Glowry held his memory in high honor, and made a punchbowl of his skull. --Ibid.
  • This terrace . . . took in an oblique view of the open sea, and fronted a long track of level sea-coast . . . . --Ibid.
  • Fluffy rolled on her back, raised her paws, and meowed to be petted.

Notice that two or three verb phrases are the usual proportion. But if you have a lot to say about the actions of the subject, or if you want to show a sort of multiplicity of behavior or doings, you can use several verbs:

  • When at Nightmare Abbey, he would condole with Mr. Glowry, drink Madeira with Scythrop, crack jokes with Mr. Hilary, hand Mrs. Hilary to the piano, take charge of her fan and gloves, and turn over her music with surprising dexterity, quote Revelations with Mr. Toobad, and lament the good old times of feudal darkness with the Transcendental Mr. Flosky. --Thomas Love Peacock

Two or more subordinate relative pronoun clauses can be linked prozeugmatically, with the noun becoming the yoking word:

  • His father, to comfort him, read him a Commentary on Ecclesiastes, which he had himself composed, and which demonstrated incontrovertibly that all is vanity. --Thomas Love Peacock
  • O books who alone are liberal and free, who give to all who ask of you and enfranchise all who serve you faithfully! --Richard de Bury

You could have two or more direct objects:

  • With one mighty swing he knocked the ball through the window and two spectators off their chairs.
  • He grabbed his hat from the rack in the closet, his gloves from the table near the door, and his car keys from the punchbowl.

Or a preposition with two objects:

  • Mr. Glowry was horror-struck by the sight of a round, ruddy face, and a pair of laughing eyes. --Thomas Love Peacock

Sometimes you might want to create a linkage in which the verb must be understood in a slightly different sense:

  • He grabbed his hat from the rack by the stairs and a kiss from the lips of his wife.
  • He smashed the clock into bits and his fist through the wall.

In hypozeugma the yoking word follows the words it yokes together. A common form is multiple subjects:

  • Hours, days, weeks, months, and years do pass away. --Sherry
  • The moat at its base, and the fens beyond comprised the whole of his prospect. --Peacock
  • To generate that much electricity and to achieve that kind of durability would require a completely new generator design.

It is possible also to hold off a verb until the last clause:

  • The little baby from his crib, the screaming lady off the roof, and the man from the flooded basement were all rescued.

Hypozeugma can be used with adjectives or adjective phrases, too. Here, Peacock uses two participial phrases, one past and one present:

  • Disappointed both in love and in friendship, and looking upon human learning as vanity, he had come to a conclusion that there was but one good thing in the world, videlicet, a good dinner . . . .

The utility of the zeugmatic devices lies partly in their economy (for they save repetition of subjects or verbs or other words), and partly in the connections they create between thoughts. The more connections between ideas you can make in an essay, whether those connections are simple transitional devices or more elaborate rhetorical ones, the fewer your reader will have to guess at, and therefore the clearer your points will be.

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