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Metonymy

Entertainment / Literature / Metonymy: Using a vaguely suggestive, physical object to embody a more general idea. The term metonym also applies to the object itself used to suggest that more general idea. Some examples of metonymy are using the metonym crown in reference to royalty or the entire royal family, or stating 'the pen is mightier than the sword' to suggest that the power of education and writing is more potent for changing the world than military force. One of my former students wrote in an argumentative essay, 'If we cannot strike offenders in the heart, let us strike them in the wallet,' implying by her metonym that if we cannot make criminals regret their actions out of their guilty consciences, we can make them regret their actions through financial punishment. We use metonymy in everyday speech when we refer to the entire movie-making industry as the L. A. Suburb 'Hollywood' or the advertising industry as the street 'Madison Avenue' (and when we refer to businessmen working there as 'suits.') Journalists use metonymy to refer to the collective decisions of the United States government as 'Washington' or when they use the term 'the White House' as a shorthand reference for the executive bureaucracy in American government. Popular writer Thomas Friedman coined a recent metonym, 'the Arab Street,' as a shorthand reference for the entire population of Muslim individuals in Saudi Arabia, Yeman, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the surrounding areas. When students talk about studying 'Shakespeare,' they mean metonymically all his collected works of drama and poetry, rather than the historical writer's life alone, and so on.
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