Syllepsis - zeugma
There is a distinction between the two terms syllepsis and zeugma. In modern analysis of text, it is not observed, and one may wonder whether it ever made much difference. However Fowler 1926 was anxious to distinguish between them.
- "syllepsis & zeugma (Gram., Rhet.); 'taking together', 'yoking'. Two figures distinguished by scholars, but confused in popular use, the second more familiar word being applied to both. Examples of syllepsis are: Miss Bolo went home in a flood of tears & a sedan chair./He lost his hat and his temper./The flood of enthusiasm & flowers was terrific./She was seen washing clothes with happiness & Pears' soap.
- Examples of zeugma are: Kill the boys & the luggage!/The pineapple was eaten & the apples neglected./With weeping eyes & hearts./See Pan with flocks, with fruits Pomona crowned.
- What is common to both figures is that a single word (that italicized in each example) is in relations that seem to be but are not the same with a pair of others. The difference is that syllepsis is grammatically correct but requires the single word to be understood in a different sense with each of its pair (e.g., in the last with expresses first accompaniment but secondly instrument), whereas in zeugma the single word actually fails to give sense with one of its pair, & from it the appropriate word has to be supplied - destroy or plunder the luggage, the apples were neglected, bleeding hearts, Pan surrounded."
What Fowler calls above 'popular use' is normally accepted nowadays, and AWE does not recommend the revival of syllepsis as a term - until you need to make the distinction, of course.