Syllepsis: Figure of Speech for the Day

Photo credit: southtyrolean

Photo credit: southtyrolean

This is one of my favorite clever uses of language.  Syllepsis is the term used to describe when one word (usually a verb) modifies two words, and must be understood differently in order to fit them properly.  “Silva Rhetoricae” also describes it as  ‘A combination of grammatical parallelism and semantic incongruity, often with a witty or comical effect.’

Examples include:

“You held your breath and the door for me.” ~ Alanis Morissette

“I live in shame and the suburbs.”

“Putting on airs and long skirts.” ~ Me  🙂

I would love to hear any other examples you can come up with, quoted or your own!

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