These are two part terms - where the endings are usually left off:

make like a banana

make like a tree

The endings though are where the point lies:

(make like a banana) and split

(make like a tree) and leave

Wikitonary just tags these as idiomatic.

Is there a technical term for these phrases?

Edit: does it count as an aposiopesis?


4 Answers 4


This is an example of ellipsis:

Ellipsis: A situation in which words are left out of a sentence but the sentence can still be understood (Cambridge Dictionary)

When written down, uncommon phrases would be appended by '...', for example: 'he pulled the trigger...'. But since the expressions you are using are idiomatic, this is not necessary, because they have formed a distinct phrase in language. Examples of this are cockney rhyming slang, where superfluous words are left off when they become phrases, eg:

Loaf of Bread: Head
Think about it; use your loaf. (fun-with-words)

In the above case, the 'of bread' from the original phrase is ellipted, because it is so common. Interestingly, 'loaf' doesn't rhyme with head, as the original phrase 'loaf of bread' did.

  • That's the whole point of Cockney rhyming slang! The rhyming part of the phrase is always omitted. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 8:27
  • @KateBunting I don't think it was.. I think it evolved to miss out the rhyming bit after it was invented. I can't find any references, but I'll see if I can find one Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 8:30
  • @marcellothearcane does ellipsis work with aposiopesis at all?
    – Mou某
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 13:49
  • @user3306356 I think the difference is purely stylistic (the '...'), but I stand to be corrected. This might be useful Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 18:02

These are jokes--plays on words. "Make like a bee and buzz off." "Make like an egg and beat it." There's a whole list, funny, not so funny, in poor taste, and so forth at http://www.netfunny.com/rhf/jokes/91q4/makelike.html. The second part of the joke is something the smart kids can figure out--e.g., "Make like a prom dress and ..... "take off", of course.

  • I think OP is referring to the structure of the sentence, not its meaning.
    – user66974
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 8:06

When someone omits something but you derive the meaning from context, that is just an implied meaning. The technical term that you imagine either does not exist or I do not know it. Moreover this is just an example of an idiom with part of it left unsaid; an implication.

For example When in Rome is a popular saying. Some people may have forgotten that it used to be commonly punctuated with do as the Romans do. The verb phrase is derived by the user from context.

  • Absolutely spot on.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 14:24

While the answer by @marcellothearcane is correct in that the leaving off a portion of the quote would be termed ellipsis, there's another portion of the construction that the two share (which rhyming slang doesn't).

I'm specifically referring to the wordplay part, e.g. where "to leave" as in "to depart" is put in the same context as "to produce new plant leaves" and "to split" as in "to depart" is put in the same context as "the dessert banana split".

This would be an example of zeugma:

zeugma (n): A figure of speech in which a word applies to two others in different senses (e.g. John and his driving licence expired last week). (Oxford Dictionaries)

This is also sometimes called syllepsis

syllepsis (n) A figure of speech in which a word is applied to two others of which it grammatically suits only one (e.g. neither they nor it is working). (Oxford Dictionaries)

The Wikipedia page on zeugma and syllepsis attempts to classify and clarify the different types of zeugma and syllepsis, as different sources draw slightly different distinctions between the two. They all share the characteristic, though, of a parallel construction where the two parts don't quite match up.

(I am unaware of a specific term that combines both the concept of ellipsis and zeugma in this way.)

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