She wore silk pants and a smile

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mimi2

Senior Member
vietnam vietnamese
"She wore silk pants and a smile"
I'm surprised with this sentence.
Does it mean "she wore silk pants" and "she wore a smile"
Very interesting. Please explain to me.
Thanks.
 
  • Carrie2

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    We don't usually say "to wear a smile". But it's been used here to emphasise that she's not wearing anything except the silk pants.
     

    mrbilal87

    Senior Member
    English (NAmE)
    I think it's being used to emphasize the silk pants and her smile. I'm not sure it implies she's wearing nothing else but that, but that would depend on the context.

    Cheers!
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Ah, yes. Coiffe is talking about ambiguity when he posted the statement. He's also referring to the comparison of two very different things (pants and smiles). The ambiguity is exactly what we are struggling with in this thread, Mimi. There are lots of implications in the statement but it is very ambiguous and without more information, we are forced to form our own opinions.

    The reason that I believe that the statement means that she wore nothing other than silk pants and a smile is because there is a colloquialism I've seen used many times in writing (especially older novels where talking about sex and nudity were frowned-upon) which is something along the lines of:

    "She answered the door wearing only a smile" OR
    "She paraded in front of her window wearing only a smile"

    This always meant that she was completely nude.
     

    Chewmen.ldr

    New Member
    Canada, English
    Believe me when I say she's not wearing ONLY silk pants and a smile. Alone, it does not imply anything. It completely depends on the context. It's too ambiguous to imply anything on its own.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Believe me when I say she's not wearing ONLY silk pants and a smile. Alone, it does not imply anything. It completely depends on the context. It's too ambiguous to imply anything on its own.
    It's so ambiguous that it's not possible to declare, unequivocally, "she's not wearing ONLY silk pants and a smile".
    That is one of the many possible meanings.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Dimcl is right, semantic ambiguity was certainly the point I had in mind, but it was a very specific kind of ambiguity (if there is such a thing ....:idea:) that comes from unequal elements in a series. That was one of the essentials I was trying to analyze in Mimi's original "jewelry as dazzling as it was expensive." Maybe I could have picked a different sentence to illustrate my point -- but it's hard for me to find a perfectly analogous problem sentence. Let me group several together here and take a look:

    "She wore silk pants and a smile." (We've been looking at this.)
    "His income was smaller than his wife."
    "Her childhood was painful and in rural Kentucky."
    "The young mother had two children, a cat, and a fancy hairdo."

    The effect, for me, of Mimi's original sentence about jewelry was similar to what I get from reading these other sample sentences. The second one, about income, is a bit different from the others. But semantic ambiguity is still the point. To say the jewelry was as dazzling as it was expensive seems to FORCE Tphuong's interpretation that "dazzling" means shocking or impressive. Otherwise the two adjectives would not belong together in a proper series. But since dazzling jewelry, to me, always has an element of sparkling light (coruscation), Mimi's problem sentence could not escape the verdict of being ambiguous, as far as I was concerned.
     

    Patapan

    Member
    UK English
    Hi, coiffe,

    I think all your four examples are use of 'zeugma', which isn't about ambiguity so much as simple word-play, usually for humour. Another famous example is 'she left in a huff and a sedan chair'. Flanders and Swann also used it in 'Madera, M'Dear' in a line which goes something like 'putting out the lamp, his cigar and the cat' (only I may have the order wrong!)

    Patapan
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    Obviously the trick is to use one verb followed by two or more objects, the last one calling for a different definition of the verb, extended, figurative, metaphorical or otherwise.

    I tried to make up an example (sorry for the poor literary value, just a test) :
    I went through a long dark tunnel, a gloomy corridor and a lot of anxiety.

    I presume the [Verb + Obj1+...+Objn] structure is not the only possibility. There might be others with different parts of speech.(?)
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    That's right LV4-26, it's called syllepsis, which is a specific type of zeugma, as Patapan said, and as you described. There is a big article on zeugma in Wikipedia.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Hi, coiffe,

    I think all your four examples are use of 'zeugma', which isn't about ambiguity so much as simple word-play, usually for humour. Another famous example is 'she left in a huff and a sedan chair'. Flanders and Swann also used it in 'Madera, M'Dear' in a line which goes something like 'putting out the lamp, his cigar and the cat' (only I may have the order wrong!)

    Patapan
    Thank you! I was racking my brain for this word ... of course it's actually syllepsis, as was noted already, a type of zeugma (which just means yoking) which creates a semantic incongruity which is often humorous, i.e.

    "You held your breath and the door for me," Alanis Morissette, courtesy of Wikipedia.

    Anyway thanks! i was lamenting my bad memory ... but who would actually want to remember all the highways and byways of classical rhetoric?
     
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