Posted by Neal on November 10, 2012
In this 2008 post, I pulled together several examples of zeugma involving the word make, and these involving the word get. Some of the get examples involved two somewhat similar meanings of get: the intransitive meaning of “become”, and the transitive meaning of “cause to become”:
- …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.
Others involved the “become” meaning with the more-distantly related meaning of “acquire”:
- A 17-year-old gets arrested and a $1,000 bond for failing to show at a court appearance for … a seatbelt violation.
- 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)
Now, four years later, the latest addition to the “become/acquire” get-zeugma collection comes from Ben Zimmer, who sent me this:
What’s especially nice about this example is that it’s not just a straightforward coordination of complements after the verb get. Oh no. This time the get is spotlighted in a so-called pseudo-cleft construction. It’s too complicated to give a formal definition of a pseudocleft here, but a few examples should give you the idea:
- What I want is money.
- What it was was football.
- Where I live is Ohio.
You can also read about pseudo-clefts in a wider context in this post. Anyway, this pseudo-cleft construction heightens the weirdness of the zeugma, because it’s weird already to do pseudo-clefts with predicate adjectives. In other words, even if we just had “become” get, it would sound odd in a pseudo-cleft:
What they got was a lot less-informed.
Actually, predicative adjectives sound weird in any kind of cleft construction, not just pseudo-clefts, and not just with the verb get. Here’s one done for (I assume) deliberate effect, in an all-cleft from the song “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”:
And when he died, all that he left us was alone.
And another in an it-cleft:
It was less-informed that they got.
And now, it’s to bed and a good night’s rest that I need to get!