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Nope, it's syllepsis
February 12, 2014 - Stephen Browne
A couple posts ago I wrote about antanaclasis, a rhetorical trope defined as, "The repetition of a word or phrase whose meaning changes in the second instance."
I wondered it Prime Minister Benjamin D'israeli's comeback to Gladstone's insult was an antanaclasis.
"Mr. D'israeli will either end his days on the gallows or of venereal disease," Gladstone said. In public. In the halls of Parliament.
"That depends Sir, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress," D'israeli shot back.
I actually emailed Dr. Gideon Burton of Brigham Young University, who maintains the website Siva Rhetoricae "The Forrest of Rhetoric" and asked him.
Right after I pushed send, my eyes chanced upon syllepsis in the left-hand column which lists the names of the "Flowers," rhetorical figures.
Dr. Burton subsequently replied and confirmed what I suspected.
Syllepsis is defined as what happens, "When a single word that governs or modifies two or more others must be understood differently with respect to each of those words."
In this case embrace means either "hold in your arms" or "adopt a position with passionate conviction."
The examples Dr. Burton gives are:
"Rend your heart, and not your garments." Joel 2:13
"You held your breath and the door for me." —Alanis Morissette
"Fix the problem, not the blame." —Dave Weinbaum
But he thanked me very kindly for the D'israeli example.
Syllepsis by the way, is not to be confused with the related figure of zeugma.
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