Just saw an algorithmically generated t-shirt that says:

Legends are Born in [country] and March

Now, technically, "in" is the preposition you'd use both for a country and a month, but it's a different meaning of "in" in each case. First comment below pointed me at zeugma/syllepsis; following up on that implies that it is grammatically correct (though doesn't really add anything but confusion in this case) and answers 1 of the 2 questions.

But, if the intent is "both [country] and March must be true" I think you'd expect:

Legends are Born in [country] in March

The "and" sounds wrong. If the 2 nouns were similar things, like "in March and April", it would have to mean "either", since it can't mean "both concurrently". So, maybe the problem I'm hearing is, this wording would actually mean:

Legends are Born either in [country] OR in March

The other way it could be interpreted, written this way, is:

Legends are Born in [country], and also Legends March

My question is, other than sounding weird, if the intent is to say "in [country] in March", is "in [country] and March" a grammatically correct way to say it? Or, are 2 preposition words necessary, if you want both to apply concurrently?

My gut feeling is the latter, but not sure how to look it up.

Note: In most cases (when zeugma isn't involved) it's pretty clear a preposition with multiple objects can't apply to both concurrently (can't be in 2 different months concurrently) so the case might be rare enough that no rule is recorded... and then we'd just default to the fact that it's ambiguous, and is not serving any stylistic purpose, so is inherently incorrect.

  • 1
    This reminds me of "zeugma", although I'm not quite sure if it fits the definition – sumelic Nov 30 '17 at 17:31
  • I think it actually does apply, I think I'll change the title! In that case, following up on zeugma does show that this is grammatically correct (in applies differently but correctly to both items) but leaves the question: does it imply "either" or "both". – KosmaS Nov 30 '17 at 17:36
  • The use of 'in Elbonia and March' posits a false parallelism and would be considered non-standard (though that's doubtless a plus for quirky T-shirt slogans). '... in Elbonia in March' means that both constraints are stated to hold, as you say. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 30 '17 at 20:16
  • Note also that March is the name of a town in Cambridgeshire, UK in case that fits better :) – IanF1 Nov 30 '17 at 20:28
  • @EdwinAshworth Right. Non-standard but technically grammatically correct (see zeugma) but with the zeugma serving no purpose (the t-shirt was algorithmically generated so the quirkiness was unintentional). No idea on whether "in Elbonia AND March" would mean both constraints hold vs either constraint? Might just not have any accepted rule... If the answer is "no standard exists for this rare situation", feel free to write it down and I'll accept it :) – KosmaS Jan 26 '18 at 11:24

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