Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit and zeugma

I am watching the second of the film (released in two parts) made from Charles Dickens' novel Little Dorrit by Christine Edzard in 1988. The cast is extraordinary and Dickensian in a way that would be hard to assemble today: Bill Fraser, Max Wall, Joan Greenwood, Alec Guinness, Patricia Hayes, Kathy Staff, Robert Morley, Jonathan Cecil...

Little Dorrit herself is played by Sarah Pickering, who came from Market Harborough and went to my school. In 1988 I was a district councillor and her father was one of our environmental health officers. Sadly, if IMDB is right, she has not worked since.

But my reason for writing this post is that a snatch of dialogue spoken by Miriam Margolyes as Flora Finching, which turns out to come straight from the novel, has just made me laugh out loud.

Speaking of the late Mr F. with her characteristic lack of punctuation and breath, Flora says:
he proposed seven times once in a hackney-coach once in a boat once in a pew once on a donkey at Tunbridge Wells and the rest on his knees
Quite something, when the words were written more than 150 years ago. They call this rhetorical device zeugma. It's from the Greek, you know.

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