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Monday, October 18, 2010


     I attended a writing conference this weekend, and one of the most interesting subjects that I learned about was metonymy; the use of one word to represent something else. Some of these have become well known figures of speech such as one I have used in this blog before; The pen is mightier than the sword. So cliche at this point that everyone understands what the pen and what the sword really are.
     Here is the definition from Encyclopedia Britannica;
     metonymy, (from Greek metōnymia, “change of name,” or “misnomer”), figure of speech in which the name of an object or concept is replaced with a word closely related to or suggested by the original, as “crown” to mean “king” (“The power of the crown was mortally weakened”) or an author for his works (“I’m studying Shakespeare”). A familiar Shakespearean example is Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar in which he asks of his audience: “Lend me your ears.”
      Metonymy can also be an interesting writing device, especially useful to engage the reader in the story. A writer employs this device when indirectly describing something else and letting the reader figure out what she is really addressing.
      Here is an example I wrote in class from a visual prompt the instructor shared of the statue lined walls of a fancy restaurant. At least it is my attempt at an example. I'm not sure I nailed it. You be the judge.

     She sat, correcting her posture, lacquered acrylic nails rat-a-tat-tatting on her linen napkin.
      tick, tick, tick.
     The idea that she had selected egregiously expensive lingerie for this date caused a humiliated rise of red to color her face. She checked her cell phone again.
      tick, tick, tick.
     Looking up, marble hearted bullies lining the blood red walls lobbed taunts at her, "You really thought he was going to show up, didn't you?"
      tick, tick, tick.
     "You haven't the gifts he is seeking," telepathed another.
       tick, tick, tick.
      Each of them having been chiseled away from what they once were, to become one man's proud possession, until placed on a false pedestal to age quietly.


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