In a word: inveigle

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


You may pronounce it "in-VEE-guhl" or "in-VAY-guhl." Michael Flanders (see below) says "in-VEE-guhl," and that is good enough for me.

The word, from the French aveugler, "to blind," means to entice, allure, or seduce, to lure someone into doing something by guile. Always there is something a little shady and underhanded about it.

Example: From Flanders and Swann's "Have Some Madeira, M'dear": "He had slyly inveigled her up to his flat / To view his collection of stamps, / And he said as he hastened to put out the cat, / The wine, his cigar, and the lamps, / Have some Madeira, m'dear."

And a Christmas bonus:

There is a rhetorical figure found several times in the song called syllepsis, in which a word is linked to two or more other words in different senses. Thus, in the fragment quoted, put out is used successively in the sense of "place outside," "serve," "extinguish," and "turn off."

Syllepsis and zeugma ("ZOOG-mah," from the Greek for "yoke") are often used interchangeably for this rhetorical figure. Hard-shell trope mongers will tell you that the Flanders and Swann song uses syllepsis and that zeugma only occurs when there is some grammatical incongruity, such as mixture of singular and plural verb senses. But Professor Arthur Hoffman at Syracuse talked about zeugma in Pope's poetry, and that is good enough for me.


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