Metonymy – an exciting challenge! Doug says, “Metonymy is as vital an item in the poet’s toolkit as yellow ochre on an Impressionist’s palette.”
[This column first appeared in slightly different form on Gather in 2012]
Pardon my Greek… The word “metonymy” itself may look as arcane and hairy as, say, onomatopoeia, but like onomatopoeia, you can find metonymy almost anywhere you look! Metonymy (meh-TAWN-i-mee) is the rhetorical figure in which an object is referred to by substituting something—usually smaller and more concrete—that is related to, symbolic of, or a constituent of that object.
An individual instance of metonymy is called a metonym. The type of metonym which consists of a constituent or component part of the object referred to is called a synecdoche (sin-ECK-duh-key). We use metonyms every day without even thinking about it. Here are a few familiar examples. You can think of dozens more.
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