Although it’s not tested on standardized tests, and so isn’t directly helpful for test prep, zeugma is a fun grammatical trick to have in your repertoire and a laugh at.

Zeugma (pronounced “zoog-ma”) occurs when one word in a sentence governs the meaning of two or more other words in the sentence and as a result is used in two different senses at once, creating a dissonance that could be considered a form of irony.

Another word often used for this concept is syllepsis, but the distinctions between the two are a subject of much disagreement, so it’s easiest and safest to use zeugma in all cases.

The simplest way to describe zeugma is to show it in action.  The first sentence of this post, for example, uses zeugma: “have in your repertoire” and “have a laugh at” are two different idioms that are not often combined.

Here are some examples from music, literature, and popular culture:

  • “He’s got one hand on the steering wheel, the other on my heart.” (Taylor Swift, “Our Song”)
  • “…both how I’m living and my nose is large” (Digital Underground, “The Humpty Dance”)
  • “There’s people on the street using guns and knives, taking drugs and each others’ lives.” (Flight of the Conchords, “Think About It”)
  • “My teeth and ambitions are bared; be prepared!” (Scar, The Lion King)
  • “She blew my nose and then she blew my mind.” (The Rolling Stones, “Honky Tonk Women”)
  • “You held your breath and the door for me.” (Alanis Morissette, “Head Over Feet”)
  • “You are free to execute your laws, and your citizens, as you see fit.” (Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Angel One”)
  • “You can put me out on the street / put me out with no shoes on my feet / But put me out, put me out, put me out of misery.” (The Rolling Stones, “Beast of Burden”)

Knowing proper grammatical style can help you in daily life, in your professional life, and on the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE. If you are planning to take any of these tests, contact Bobby Hood Test Prep for more information!