Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Is it proper to say "the book and movie Of Mice and Men" even though the two identical terms "Of Mice and Men" do not refer to the same entity?

An alternative would be "the book Of Mice and Men and the movie Of Mice and Men", which strikes me as very awkward.

If the first phrasing is valid, does that imply that "the book and man Abraham Lincoln" would be OK too? Secondarily, if so, could "Abraham Lincoln" be italicized?

This seems much less likely for practical reasons although the man and the book are arguably as distinct from one another as the movie and the book are, above.

share|improve this question
    
"The book and movie X" can be easily reworded as "the book X and the movie of the same title" or something to that extent. The second part of the question strikes me as quite theoretical. I'd be hard pressed to come up with a situation in which I would use the phrase "the book and man X" at all. What is the context you have in mind? Can you provide a complete sentence or two? –  RegDwigнt Dec 22 '10 at 23:21
    
@RedDwight I just heard one on the radio. Let me see if I can find it. –  WAF Dec 22 '10 at 23:26

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

That is an interesting question. I think there is a spectrum between two parallel and identical things at one end, and two things completely different but with the same name at the other. The former is like:

"I saw and conquered Gaul"

This is common and regular ellipsis; you leave out the common part in two parallel phrases, which is called syllepsis, "a taking-together", or zeugma, Greek for "yoke", because you use part of a phrase as a yoke to control two things. Sometimes these things are very different, but somehow both fit the yoke, resulting in an odd dissonance that is often used as a figure of speech.

Consider this sentence:

"I hit the roof with my head and Emma with a bottle".

The verb "to hit" has two different meanings — to hit by accident versus to hit on purpose" —, both of which take an object, but each of the objects serves a different function. And both verbs take an instrument; but the instrument "with my head" is accidental, whereas "with a bottle" is on purpose. This twist of meaning results in a quaint effect, which can be decorative in some texts, but will be misleading or inappropriate in formal or legal texts, where rectitude and efficiency rule.

In your first example, the book and the film are not completely identical, but they are close enough not to surprise the reader, so I'd say your phrase is fine. In the second example, the meanings of the two names lie farther apart, which makes it more striking and playful. If you aim at a playful tone, use it; if a playful tone is not intended, your phrase goes too far. Italicising "Abraham Lincoln" would not be a good idea: then one half of the yoke would not fit any more. For you cannot italicise a person, while not italicising a book title is acceptable. Think of it as "the man Abraham Lincoln and the book Abraham Lincoln" versus "the man Abraham Lincoln and the book Abraham Lincoln".

share|improve this answer
    
That "hit the roof with my head" example reminds me of this excellent answer by nohat, chock-full of quotes such as "Joe Stockley was in an expensive sports car and deep trouble. This time, he had really let his mouth and his exotic foreign lover run away with him and it was getting beyond a joke and his immediate circle of friends in the form of rumours and speculation." Follow the link, you won't be disappointed. –  RegDwigнt Dec 22 '10 at 23:42
    
Ha, a good answer indeed! I added a little comment to it too. –  Cerberus Dec 23 '10 at 0:16

I would, instead, say/write one of the following:

  • the book, Of Mice and Men, and the movie based on it

  • the book, Of Mice and Men, and the movie with the same title

  • the book, Of Mice and Men, and the movie, Of Mice and Men,

  • the movie, Of Mice and Men, and the book on which it is based

  • the movie and the book both titled Of Mice and Men

  • both the book and movie, Of Mice and Men,

When dealing with both a person/group and the movie/book/album/product/brand/thing named after them, the word eponymous comes in handy. Thus:

  • Abraham Lincoln and the eponymous book

If the book were written by Abraham Lincoln himself, then:

  • Abraham Lincoln and his eponymous book
share|improve this answer
    
+1 eponymous was the word jumping around in my mind with regard to that sentence. –  Orbling Dec 23 '10 at 0:23
    
One could also say "Abraham Lincoln and his self-titled book"... –  user730 Dec 23 '10 at 3:31

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.