Figures of Speech: Metonymy vs. Synecdoche
English language figures of speech
The English language includes many figures of speech. Using figures of speech can help a writer to better convey his message to readers, and figures of speech generally make writing more colorful and interesting. In the English language, figures of speech can be classified into two types: schemes and tropes. Schemes change the traditional pattern of words, as in the use of alliteration: The serpent slithered on the shifting sands. In addition to alliteration, some other examples of schemes include anastrophe, apostrophe, hyperbole, parallelism, pun, and spoonerism. Tropes include allegory, allusion, innuendo, irony, metaphor, oxymoron, onomatopoeia, metonymy, and synecdoche. These last two figures of speech are what I’ll be discussing here.
Many people often get metonymy and synecdoche confused. Actually, some people consider synecdoche to be a form of metonymy, but I learned that they were two distinct figures of speech when I was studying the English language in college. Here are the definitions of metonymy and synecdoche:
Metonymy – a figure of speech that uses something closely associated with a person, thing, or concept to represent that person, thing, or concept
Synecdoche – a figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole, a material stands for a thing, or an individual stands for a class
The way I learned to differentiate between these two figures of speech was to think of the “nec” (neck) in synecdoche as a person’s neck, a body part. Below are some examples of both types of these figures of speech.
The White House issued a statement after the speech.
There’s a lot of anger directed at Wall Street these days.
The bank approved my home equity loan.
The Vatican has been mute on the issue.
According to gossip on the Hill, the president is ill.
Washington is often considered corrupt and ineffectual.
Detroit is making more fuel-efficient automobiles.
The soldiers looked to the crown for guidance.
In the Middle Ages, the Church controlled most of the crowned heads of Europe.
Hollywood is cranking out a lot of new films this year.
Could you give me a hand, please?
We need every available hand to clean up the mess.
We need to count heads on the bus before we leave.
My uncle runs 200 head on his horse ranch in Montana.
He won my heart with his kindness.
I’m saving up to buy a new set of wheels.
I never want to see his face again.
Get your nose out of my business.
I don’t have the stomach to work in a slaughterhouse.
He had the senator’s ear.
I tried hard to catch his eye at the party.