Metonymy-a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated (such as "crown" for "royalty").
Metonymy is also the rhetorical strategy of describing something indirectly by referring to things around it, such as describing someone's clothing to characterize the individual.
Examples and Observations:
- "Many standard items of vocabylary are metonymic. A red-letter day is important, like the feast days marked in red on church calendars. . . . On the level of slang, a redneck is a stereotypical member of the white rural working class in the Southern U.S., originally a reference to necks sunburned from working in the fields."
(Connie Eble, "Metonymy." The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992)
- "Fear gives wings."
- "Detroit is still hard at work on an SUV that runs on rain forest trees and panda blood."
- "Metonymy is common in cigarette advertising in countries where legislation prohibits depictions of the cigarettes themselves or of people using them."
(Daniel Chandler, Semiotics. Routledge, 2007)
- "I stopped at a bar and had a couple of double Scotches. They didn't do me any good. All they did was make me think of Silver Wig, and I never saw her again."
(Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep)
- "One of the favorite American metonymic processes is the one in which a part of a longer expression is used to stand for the whole expression. Here are some examples for the 'part of an expression for the whole expression' metonymy in American English:
Danish for Danish pastry
shocks for shock absorbers
wallets for wallet-sized photos
Ridgemont High for Ridgemont High School
the States for the United States
(Zoltán Kövecses, American English: An Introduction. Broadview, 2000)
- The White House asked the television networks for air time on Monday night.
- "Whitehall prepares for a hung parliament."
(The Guardian, January 1, 2009)
- The suits on Wall Street walked off with most of our savings.
- "The B.L.T. left without paying."
(waitress referring to a customer)
"If metaphor works by transposing qualities from one plane of reality to another,metonymy works by associating meanings within the same plane. . . . The representation of reality inevitably involves a metonym: we choose a part of 'reality' to stand for the whole. The urban settings of television crime serials are metonyms--a photographed street is not meant to stand for the street itself, but as a metonym of a particular type of city life--inner-city squalor, suburban respectability, or city-centre sophistication."
(John Fiske, Introduction to Communication Studies, 2nd ed. Routledge, 1992)