The joy of the Phrasal Verb……

I have had a request from a fellow in Spain to explain what phrasal verbs and syllepeses are.

The phrasal verb is a marvellous thing.In essence it is a verb with a preposition, which when put together will give you a whole new meaning: for example, doing up a house. Someone learning English might know the word do and the word up, but would still be unable to work out why you were constructing a building skywards. And when he discovered that you could also do in your enemies, he would be done for.

Muck out = clean a stable
Muck in = help
Muck about = play uselessly
Muck up = ruin

So a lazy and incompetent stable boy could be said to muck about constantly, out and in rarely, and up everything.

The syllepsis however is rhetorically using one verb in several different senses (She left in a taxi and a flood of tears) is an example of syllepsis. The word derives from the Ancient Greek  σύλληψις which means literally ” a taking together”. There is another rhetorical concept called a Zeugma which I will talk about in a later post. Anway, back to the syllepsis. One of of the finest examples can be found in Honky Tonk Woman by the Rolling Stones

I laid a divorcée in New York City
I had to put up some kind of a fight
The lady then she covered me with roses
She blew my nose and then she blew my mind 

It appears that syllepsis works well when the incongruity of the sentence catches your attention.


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