This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Nuts and Bolts: metonyms.

People keep talking passionately about not putting boots on the ground - but what's the harm in boots? 

I suppose they're a nuisance if you trip over them, but of course what people are getting so worked up about isn't so much the boots as the armed soldiers who will be wearing them. They can be a terrible nuisance.

This sort of figure of speech - either using a bit of something to represent the whole of it (which has its own grammatical term, synecdoche) or using something just vaguely connected with what you're actually talking about to stand in for it (metonymy) - happens all over the place and a lot of the time.

Do you want to acquire a learned tongue?

No thanks, that would be utterly disgusting; though it would be nice to be fluent in Sanskrit.

Is the Vatican moving towards a more liberal position?

I doubt it, because Italy is in the way.

What's the dish of the day?

Le Creuset.

Why do we indulge in metonyms? Is it that humans are intrinsically shifty and hate saying what we mean? That we love to play? That we like to make ourselves look a little bit original?

Is it habit?

Is it thinking in things other than words?

Well, don't ask me. I haven't got the head for working out that sort of thing.

Thing To Catch People Using Today: metonyms. This word comes from the Greek meta, which implies change, and onoma, name.

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