What is the literary device used in “She’s not just showing you what she made. She’s showing you what she’s made of

At first, I thought it was chiasmus, but it does not really fit. Certain that it is a type of repetition, but I do not know what it would be specifically called.


2 Answers 2


Examples of the rhetorical figures of speech called zeugma or syllepsis are relatively easy to spot but more difficult to analyze. Even the definitions of these two figures can be difficult to understand!

Nevertheless, syllepsis and zeugma can be effective and even memorable ways of phrasing words and are worthwhile studying for that reason. An example of syllepsis which parallels your example is the following:

He lost his coat and his temper.

Notice the double sense in which the word lost is used. Someone can lose a possession, such as a coat, by leaving it somewhere absentmindedly, only to return to the place where it was left to find it gone.

By the same token, a temper is something which all people possess, and most of us keep it in check. When it breaks free from its self-imposed captivity, however, we say it was lost, as in

"He lost his temper when his car stalled in the middle of traffic."

Your example takes the verb made and uses it in two different senses. The first sense brings to mind, for example, the making of a piece of art, such as a painting or a sculpture. The second sense brings to mind the stuff which a person's character is made of--the stuff which comprises a person's character.

That "stuff" could be anything from a creative, inventive spirit, which results in a work of art being made, to an angry, invective attitude which results in a real mess being made, thus showing people what we're made of (and it's not pretty!).

Syllepsis enables the speaker or writer to use fewer words in expressing a thought, but it also requires the reader or listener to "pick up on" the two (or possibly more) senses in which a particular word or phrase is used.

  • OP's example has two sentences. Syllepsis and zeugma are not involved. CED has 'zeugma: use of language in which a word that has more than one meaning is used with one meaning in one part of a sentence and with a different meaning in another part of the sentence, usually in order to produce a humorous effect' (emphasis mine). Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 20:28
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    @EdwinA - You can't have zeugma with two sentences? That seems a little strict. What if the same text were punctuated differently? She’s not just showing you what she made; she’s showing you what she’s made of. It seems odd that the zeugma would suddenly disappear simply because a comma or semi-colon gets changed to a full stop. Or are you simply saying that this is just not a very good example of zeugma either way?
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 22:21
  • @EdwinAshworth: Point taken. Not surprisingly, however, I side with J.R., above. A coordinating conjunction such as "but" would also work to make the two sentences, one. Don Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 0:36
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    @J.R. Note that 'He lost his coat and his temper.' might get you a laugh in a comedy sketch, but is arguably ungrammatical and unacceptable in formal writing. 'She’s not just showing you what she made. She’s showing you what she’s made of.' is commendable. No unrepeated word is forced into a dual usage. Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 22:19
  • The idea makes sense on an abstract level, but @Edwin makes a good point, that each instance of each word (given either punctuation) is used in only one sense.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 14:39

We did this in our English lesson yesterday so I'm pretty sure this is right.

I believe the term you're looking for is 'anaphora'.

It's basically when you have sentences that are comprised of the same words/phrases (which I think is the case here).

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