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}].

When I met with the Dean, I never raised my expectations for what he would have to say, or my estimation of his right to be sitting there in his ostentatious leather swivel chair. My chair, in the Rhetoric Department, was squeaky, and uncomfortable, and it’s wheels had been stolen when I was off-campus on leave. One week after I returned from leave, and was sitting on a bench eating lunch and watching people on the quad, I saw my chair-wheels attached to a skate board rolling past me. I yelled “You thief! Give me back my wheels!” Without even looking at me, the thief gave me the double finger and continued to roll wherever he was going. I yelled “You little shit!” as he headed down the hill. There was an audible “gasp” from the people sitting near me when I said “shit.”

I am here in Dumbo Dean’s office because of what I yelled. According to University Regulation 2.2 under “Prohibited Judgment-Words,” faculty are barred from using “shit, poop, steamer, Lincoln Log, Snake Charmer, Groaner or any other name connoting or denoting a bowel movement and/or fecal matter to refer to and/or demean a student, their family, or their friends.”

Well, I thought, we don’t even know whether this kid is a student. Then I noticed there was a kid sitting outside Dean Numbnuts office. He had a skateboard on his lap—with my chair-wheels screwed onto it. He was the little shit. I recognized him. It was Puster Twupe. His ancestors had paid for and built the university at the beginning of the 19th century. The university charter said all Twupes would be admitted to the university, attend free of charge and be immune from disciplinary charges for their behavior. This last provision was included because the Twupes had a predisposition for misbehavior, up to, and including the fatal bell tower accident in 1888. Many university presidents had tried to have the immunity clause removed from the charter. One President was beaten to death with a field hockey stick, and another was killed when a Bunson burner was stuck up his rectum and turned on. The gas blew him up like a balloon, and then, he exploded in flames.

Bozo the Dean told me if I apologized to “Mr. Twupes” we could forget the entire incident, and, I may get my chair-wheels back. Otherwise, I would be terminated from the university, my pension would be rescinded, and my campus burial plot would be returned to the university. Puster made a little snorting sound when Diaper Dean got to the bit about my burial plot. I didn’t care.

As Chair of the Rhetoric Department for the past 40 years, I had embezzled nearly $2,000,000 from operating funds with fake equipment purchases, trips to nowhere, fake guest speaker fees, and “miscellaneous” supplies. I had also actually purchased a departmental sailboat, “intended” for departmental bonding actives, but really, for my eventual getaway to the Caribbean. I had named it “Freedom.” So, I told Dean Dud to go fuck himself with the apology. Puster said “Wo dude,” as I walked out the door and into the rest of my life. I wanted to murder the little shit, and I thought I had a plan.

We agreed to meet up in the bell tower that night at 11.00. I told him I had an ounce of crack I needed to unload before I disappeared forever. He said “Righteous” which I assumed meant yes. Standing by the tower rail, he told me with a smug look on his face that he wasn’t really a Twupes, and I had been totally duped by him. But I was going to push him into oblivion no matter what. “What’s your mother’s name?” I asked. He said “Marcia Rocnkburg, she was knocked up by a professor, who got away with it because back then faculty and students were allowed to have sex. The University granted her child Twupes status to shut her up. My name was legally changed and I’ve been living as a Twupes ever since. ” “I knew it. You’re my goddamn son!” I yelled as I pushed the little shit over the tower railing and listened for the dull thud when he finished his fall.

As I untied “Freedom” from the dock, and the wind pushed into her sails, I thought about Marcia Rocnkburg, who had disappeared a few days after giving birth, and had been missing for nearly 20 years.

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

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