Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

More Zeugma with Make and Get

Posted by Neal on November 19, 2008

If you browse the zeugma tab (under Syntax|Coordination), you’ll find several posts talking about the verb make, as used in sentences such as:

  • It makes my hair big and my pits sweat.
  • The jigging made Tabby nervous and Zeke itch.
  • They helped him forget what had made his father sad and his mother cry.
  • It would just make everyone in back of you angry and want to pulverize ya!
  • The sun makes you hot and sneeze.

As I noted in one of the posts, every example has a single token of make used in two ways, in the same order. First is the make that is followed by a noun phrase (or pronoun) and an adjective phrase: makes my hair big, made Tabby nervous, made his father sad, make everyone angry, makes you. Second is the make that is followed by a noun phrase (or pronoun) and a verb phrase: makes my pits sweat, made Zeke itch, made his mother cry, make everyone want to pulverize ya, makes you sneeze. The last two examples even have the same NP, everyone in back of you and just plain you, going with both the adjective (angry, hot) and the VP (want to pulverize ya, sneeze), but still, we have the adjective complement first, and then the VP complement.

Continuing the pattern is this example, taken from the newspaper several months ago, quoting one Andrew Stove on what makes a fast Pinewood Derby car:

It has to be aerodynamic. Make it small and come to a point.
(Amanda Dolasinski, “Like boy, like grown man,” The Columbus Dispatch, June 27, 2008, p. B2)

A single make, a single direct object (it), and both an adjective and a VP complement, in that order (small, come to a point). I’m still waiting to hear an example like Make it come to a point, and small.

It sounds a bit weirder (to my ear) when the meanings of make are a little farther apart, with one of the “cause something to be in a certain state” meanings of the above examples paired with the meaning of “create”, as in this example from the zeugma files:

Is that what made the blender noise and the sky turn purple?

Browsing through the zeugma posts, you may also notice that get is a popular verb for them. We’ve noted:

  • …after you’ve gotten dressed, your bed made, and your teeth brushed.
  • [The karate lessons] make it tough for him to get his things done and to bed on time.

Often now, I’ll even be tempted to say things like, “OK, Doug and Adam, get your jackets and into the car,” but I can’t trust that that’s part of my grammar: I’ve been contaminated by too much thinking about the kind of sentences I listed above. Anyway, these get examples use get in the same two ways. One is get meaning “become” or “be”, as in gotten dressed and get to bed on time. The other is the causative version of the “become” meaning: “cause [something] to become or be”, which takes a direct object before the adjective that says how the direct object ends up: get your teeth brushed, get your bed made, get your stuff done. But unlike with the make sentences, these sentences have both possible orders for the two meanings: The first sentence has the causative meaning coming second (and third), while the second sentence has the causative meaning coming first.

We’ve also had a case of a single get used with farther apart meanings, putting the “become” meaning with the “acquire” or “receive” meaning:

A 17-year-old gets arrested and a $1,000 bond for failing to show at a court appearance for … a seatbelt violation.

Now, writing about country music for the first time in quite a while, I have another “become/acquire” usage of get from a song I heard on the radio:

These days there’s dudes gettin’ facials, manicured, waxed, and botoxed.
(“I’m Still a Guy,” by John Kelley Lovelace, Lee Thomas Miller, and Brad Douglas Paisley)

Here we have dudes acquirin’ facials, and becomin’ manicured, waxed, and botoxed.

As always, I welcome your grammar judgments on any of these examples, and other examples you’ve heard or seen.

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One Response to “More Zeugma with Make and Get

  1. [...] this 2008 post, I pulled together several examples of zeugma involving the word make, and these involving the word [...]

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