26 Zeugma and Pun
Zeugma is the use of a word in the same grammatical but different semantic relations to two neighboring words in the context, the semantic relations being, on the one hand, literal, and, on the other, transferred. "Dora, plunging at once into privileged intimacy and into the middle of the room". (B. Shaw) 'To plunge' (into the middle of a room) materializes the meaning 'to rush into' or 'enter impetuously'. Here it is used in its concrete, primary, literal meaning; in 'to plunge into privileged intimacy' the word 'plunge' is used in its derivative meaning. This stylistic device is particularly favoured in English emotive prose and in poetry. The revival of the original meanings of words must be regarded as an essential quality of any work in the belles-lettres style. A good writer always keeps the chief meanings of words from fading away, provided the meanings are worth being kept fresh and vigorous. Zeugma is' a strong and effective device to maintain the purity of the primary meaning when the two meanings clash. By making the two meanings conspicuous in this particular way, each of them stands out clearly. The structure of zeugma may present variations from the patterns given above. Thus in the sentence:. "...And May's mother always stood on her gentility, and Dot's mother never stood on anything but her active little feet" (Dickens) The word 'stood' is used twice. This structural variant of zeugma, though producing some slight difference in meaning, does not violate the principle of the stylistic device. It still makes the reader realize that the two meanings of the word 'stand' are simultaneously expressed, one primary and the other derivative. The pun is another stylistic device based on the interaction of two well-known meanings of a word or phrase. It is difficult do draw a hard and fast distinction between zeugma and the pun. The only reliable distinguishing feature is a structural one: zeugma is the realization of two meanings with the...
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