I really liked this article because it reminds me of my dad.
He was a wordsmith up to the age of 102, and he passed on the passion for words in me, my sons and my cousin. Up until this May, no matter how tired he seemed or hard it was from him to hear during their weekly telephone conversations, as soon as my cousin talked about a new word, his attention would perk up. He could still remember the Latin he learned 90+ years ago and try to figure out its meaning and etymology (not to be confused with the study of insects, or a popular brand of pastry).
This is the second time in my life I’ve encounter the word synecdoche.
The first time was in my son’s AP English class when they were learning about Shakespeare, such as:
“O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.”
The phrase “ever-fixed mark” refers to a lighthouse.
At best, the term “syndecdochial token” is just some high fallutin’ redundancy, as one of the definitions of “token” is a synonym for syndecdoche:
4b : a small part representing the whole : indication
“this is only a token of what we hope to accomplish”
At worst, it is just a presumptuous attempt to sound intelligent that does the opposite since synecdoche specifically refers to words and is a recognized literary term, while a visual summary of a fashion designer’s line is far closer to a visual summary, or an icon:
1a : a graphic symbol on a computer display screen that represents an app, an object (such as a file), or a function (such as the command to save)
(I’m not an expert on this stuff. I just get curious about things, do research instead of what I’m supposed to be doing, and then regurgitate it online, with the vast majority of my efforts being done to keep pace with my friend Gutbloom.)
But there is another literary term that plays in tandem with synecdoche, burned into my memory because of how funny these words sounded to me back then.
However, that memory is only that there is a second literary term that sounds funny and is sort of associated with the first, which is my real modus operandi — I like learning stuff so I can play with it.
For example, when my son was in middle school he had a vocabulary list. I had to test him about the word meanings, and to keep myself entertained while he studied, I decided to write a single sentence that used every word on the list.
Ah, but I digress.
As Ray Bradbury once said “digression is the soul of wit.” (Unfortunately digression is also the soul of procrastination and a precursor for early onset Alzheimer’s.)
Anyway, when I am reminded of my incomplete memory, I call my son, who may be the only person outside of high school English teachers who remembers that word. According to him, he remembers it only because I keep asking him about it. (Note: I have no memory of repeatedly asking him. I think I might have asked him two or three times in the last 16–20 years, so either my memory is failing or the definition of repeatedly has changed.)
The word is metonymy.
And the word is good. Look at how nuanced this term is, as it is used to describe another thing closely linked to that particular thing.
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”
While an ear is part of a person, it is a metonymy because the word replaces the concept of paying attention.
When we talk about putting boots on the ground, that’s a synecdoche.
When we talk about giving someone the boot, that’s a metonymy.
And when we want to give someone the boot for putting boots on the ground, that’s impeachment.
I look forward to reading your other posts about words.