Education · Grammar · NovElla

You Can’t Stop the … Zeugma

It’s Hairspray!

Corny Collins

I’m here with Corny Collins and we’re going to see a fun application of grammar in the popular musical Hairspray.

Music Notes

“Can’t tell a verb from a noun
They’re the nicest kids in town” – Corny Collins


Grammar may sound boring, and for me, let’s just say it wasn’t love at first sight. Yet when I discovered the world of grammar, zeugma quickly became one of my favorites. This grammatical figure of speech is employed in the song lyrics of Hairspray.

Hairspray Soundtrack

Corny Collins wants to know, “What is a zeugma?”

According to Oxford Dictionaries:

zeug·ma [zoog-muh] – Noun

A figure of speech in which a word applies to two others in different senses or to two others of which it semantically suits only one.

Zeugma comes from the Greek word zeugnunai meaning “to yoke.” Think of it as one word that has a dual purpose in your sentence.

Here’s an example from Charles Dickens:

“Mr. Pickwick took his hat and his leave.”

In the sentence, “took” goes with both “hat” and “his leave,” but in different ways.

“Without Love” is a musical number from Hairspray, performed by the characters Tracy, Link, Seaweed, and Penny. The song is about how miserable they would be without each other. This is where we find our zeugma.

Link sings, “Without love … Life’s getting my big break and laryngitis.”

In this case, getting your big break is quite different from catching laryngitis; but both use the word “getting,” forming a zeugma.

Hairspray Singers

That’s all for now from Mr. Corny Collins, with the latest, greatest Baltimore sound zeugma!



One thought on “You Can’t Stop the … Zeugma

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