Appropriately (for Writing Bar) this week’s wacky word describes a commonly used literary device. It’s one most readers would immediately recognise on seeing it used, but may never have realised just how common, and clever, it is. It’s zeugma, a rhetorical device where a single word is linked to two words in a sentence but is really only appropriate to one of them.
So, that makes a zeugma sound more like a grammatical error than a writing technique. But used well, the zeugma can add drama, humour and beauty to writing. The Macquarie Dictionary describes zeugma as “a figure of speech in which a verb is associated with two subjects or objects, or an adjective with two nouns, in a way that is unexpected”.