Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Metonymy, Metonyyou (Metonymy, MetonyYOUR?)

I own an original Ella

Those with heads for finance go to Wall Street, those with hearts enamored by performance love Hollywood, while those with a spirit of innovation and creation may head to Detroit.
And it seems that many of those in DC have neither head nor heart nor spirit.

OK folks, if someone just walked in off the street from ancient Babylon (assuming he could read 21st century English) he would not immediately understand the significance behind Wall Street, Hollywood, Detroit and DC.

But you, bright folk that you are, have a firm grasp on the tail of METONYMY.
You know Wall Street is closely associated with big finance, Hollywood with film making, Detroit with the auto industry and DC with federal government.

Our Babylonian friend may also wonder why anything a White House says would carry import, and may even give pause at the thought of a talking house in the first place.
If he happened to wander to Great Britain he would learn that Downing Street has some opinions.

He may be surprised to know that one lone President (Nixon, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama) can bomb an entire nation (Cambodia, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, Libya)

So you sit him down to try to explain how one part of something has come, in common usage, to represent the whole thing.
Yes, you acknowledge, finance takes place on streets other than Wall Street and movies are shot in other locations than Hollywood and cars are definitely engineered outside of Detroit.
But these are just shortcuts we use in language. We just… comprehend metonymy.
You take pity on his confusion.
You tell him to take a break.
You pull out your wallet and point to a photo of an adorable little girl in pigtails and a tutu.
‘That’s my daughter!’ you announce proudly.
‘She’s in dance! Julliard wants her!’

Babylonia wonders if he has lost his head or if you have.
Your daughter is a flat, two-dimensional piece of paper? Do other pieces of paper dance around her? And why would someone named Julliard want such a pathetic example of humanity?

You take pity and pat his arm.
‘Let me buy you some golden arches for lunch,’ you tell him and turn to put away your wallet. When you look back you see him hitching a ride with a Ford as he shouts,
“No question about it! The States are headed to the loony bin and if I stay here any longer I’ll be hitting the bottle!’

Babylonia may be correct, you muse. But then you stand tall, proud to be part of the crazy ol’ Red, White and Blue.


Lori Lipsky said...

I've got it, I think, though I may require review.

Metonymy is another new word for me. You're not making these up are you, Prude?

Robin J. Steinweg said...

Hm. I met Jersey last Saturday. But I never before met Onymy.

The Prude said...

I could not in my wildest flight of fancy make this up.
Robin, you are such a goofball!!!!!

Suef said...

But you are a genius to know about such a word AND be able to write about it!