Syllepsis (sil-lep’-sis): When a single word that governs or modifies two or more others must be understood differently with respect to each of those words. A combination of grammatical parallelism and semantic incongruity, often with a witty or comical effect. Not to be confused with zeugma: [a general term describing when one part of speech {most often the main verb, but sometimes a noun} governs two or more other parts of a sentence {often in a series}].

I smelled roses as I walked through the arboretum, and danger. It was summer and I was surrounded by blooming flowers and idiots throwing frisbees. Why did I feel this way? Why did my life go on in anticipation of occurrences that never occurred? As I walked along, I remembered years and years ago when I had taken acid and gone to the arboretum. I was accosted by a talking sunflower. The sunflower told me to pick him and him take home with me. He looked like standing liquid, flashing shades of green. His giant yellow head actually looked like the sun! I cut his stem with my Swiss Army knife (everybody had one back then—mine was pink). The sunflower whimpered as he was cut. I almost stopped cutting, but the hapless flower insisted that I go on. If I got caught liberating a flower from the arboretum, there would be a $200 fine, and my mother’s wrath. I hid the sunflower in my Grateful Dead T-shirt, nearly crushing it. I slowly walked home and put it in a vase. It had stopped talking, and that was ok. I petted the flower and it wiggled and cooed. I just stood there for what seemed like an hour (or two). When I became “normal” again I needed herbal tea, to take a shower, and a session with my shrink.

Well, here I am again. Back in the arboretum. I came to the same stand of sunflowers and to my senses. “There is nothing to fear but too much beer!” I yelled at the sunflowers. It was characteristically stupid. There’s so much beyond too much beer to fear; like wearing adult diapers, or forgetting your phone number, or losing things. The arboretum hadn’t changed in 50 years, but I had. That was the danger I had sensed as I walked down the arboretum’s path. I carried the cargo of time.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” ( Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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