Archive for the ‘Metonymy’ Category

Substance massification on the golf course

September 15, 2015

In another watching of the GEICO “Kraken” commercial (posting here), I caught a nice everyday example of the sort of conventionalized metonymy that I called in a 2008 LLog posting substance massification, a particular type of conversion of a C (count) noun to a M (mass) use.

In their in-play commentary on a golf game in progress, one reporter says to another, about a golfer attempting to cope with a sea-monster:

(X) Looks like he’s going to go with the 9 iron. That may not be enough club.

(Golf) club is C, but here is used with M syntax, according to this generalization (from the LLog posting):

C>M: substance massification. A C noun denoting an individual has a M use to denote a generic substance or totality, usually in construction with a quantity determiner (“That’s a lot of horse”, “That’s more elephant than we can handle”). [So: horse / elephant (roughly) ‘amount of horse / elephant material or substance’ (considered as a whole)]

Or in the case of (X), enough club, with club (roughly) ‘amount of club substance or material’.


Go for the nuts!

September 8, 2015

From Ned Deily on Facebook, a photo of the Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game for small children, which invited jokey comments playing on nuts ‘testicles’. And from there to other expressions for the testicles: play ball!


The hunted 95 per cent?

June 4, 2015

Let’s start with:

(1) Hunted for its horns, 95 percent of the population disappeared

This looks like a classic “dangling modifier”. We have a SPAR hunted for its horns (a Subjectless Predicative Adjunct Requiring a referent for the missing subject), but the adjunct doesn’t obey the Subject Rule (doesn’t pick up its referent from the subject of the main clause: (1) doesn’t in fact tell us that 95 percent of the population was hunted for its horns). (On the concepts and terminology, see the material in the Page on “Dangler postings”, especially the “as a SPAR” posting.)

But even without context, (1) is easily understood: 95 percent of the population is a metonymic stand-in for a population of X, and it’s X that was hunted for its horns. But that takes some interpretive work. However, when more discourse context is provided, this work is no longer needed, and I’d expect that readers wouldn’t even notice that (1) is technically a dangling modifier.


Name that dress code

October 11, 2014

Today’s Dilbert has Catbert giving advice on naming the company’s new dress code:


(in fact, a dorky name for it). Now on dork and dorky.


Non-hair quiffs

June 7, 2013

Commenter John yesterday on my “whoopee cushion” posting:

So the point of intersection of “making whoopie” and “razzberry” is quiff?

Well, it turns out that in addition to quiff referring to a hair style (first discussed in this blog here), it has plenty of other senses. What I said in that first quiff posting was:

(Quiff is a word that sounds like it ought to be at least naughty, if not actually coarse slang — “his quiff in her quim”, something like that — and indeed a huge variety of slang senses have been reported. Apparently, it’s just one of those dirty-sounding words that can get pressed into service for any old off-color meaning. Including as an onomatopoetic verb meaning ‘fart’.)



May 18, 2013

Today’s Pearls Before Swine:

The idiom golden throat ‘a widely admired singing or speaking voice’ is both metonymic (throat for ‘voice’) and metaphorical (golden ‘like gold in value’), but it’s complex enough that someone could not see that. Rat, of course, just turns things to his own ends.



February 20, 2013

Over on ADS-L, Fred Shapiro (the Yale quotations man) forwarded a query:

I have been asked about why the word john is used to denote a prostitute’s client.  It seems obvious to me that the name John, because of its commonness, became a generic term for men, perhaps with the implication that prostitute’s clients don’t give their real names.

This is undoubtedly as complete an answer as you could hope for, but many people find it unsatisfying; they’re hoping for a *story*, a story with a particular prostitute’s client named John as its central figure. People are narratophiles; they love stories.


An old joke

August 15, 2012

From Gregory Ward, at the end of a long chain of fowardings, this jape:

A little known fact…

The first testicular guard (“box”) was used in cricket in 1874

And the first helmet was used in 1974.

So, it took 100 years for men to realize that their brains were also worth protecting…

The text (just as it appears here) has been distributed all over the place on the net, many times. Here, someone has added visuals. Turns out it’s an old joke.


New words from John Waters

May 19, 2012

“Band Who Picked Up Hitchhiking John Waters Talks About Their Six Hours With The Director”, here:

Yesterday we shared the adorable story of the indie rock band that picked up indie director John Waters as he stood hitchhiking on the side of a road in Ohio. This morning the bassist for Here We Go Magic, Jen Turner, spoke with us about their magical experience with the director of Pink Flamingos. It turns out Waters hitchhikes a lot—he’s even hitchhiked with Patty Hearst—and gets plenty of rides even when wearing a hat that says “Scum of the Earth.” Here’s Turner’s tale of her six hours in a van with John Waters.

… He taught you some new words? Yes! He did teach me some new words, which he instantly credited to all the other people he’s been hanging out with. The first one was “trendsexual.” He was saying that he thinks that it’s time to get back in the closet because there are too many out there now and it’s too cool to be gay, I guess. The other one was “blouse,” which is such a great term because it means a feminine top. You know, like the opposite of a bear.


Slang connotations too unfortunate to explain

February 29, 2012

I Fagiolini is a British vocal ensemble specializing in Renaissance and contemporary music. Here’s its director, Robert Hollingworth, on the name:

I Fagiolini’s name has become a modern myth, with bizarre explanations for it offered worldwide wherever I Fagiolini has performed or its recordings been reviewed. [The ellipsis here is out of reach for me.] Here is the unexpurgated truth.

By the time I Fagiolini gave its first concert in 1986, the revival in interest and period playing styles of early music was well under way. At New College, Oxford (the group’s home), early music was known as ‘beany’ music because most of the musicians that seemed to be interested in it (both amateur and professional) seemed to have an alternative lifestyle of knitted yoghurt and wholefood pullovers, living on a diet of nothing but pulses and beans. [The group has a definitely antic side.] Stuck for a name at short notice, countertenor Richard Wyn Roberts proposed ‘the beans’; Robert Hollingworth suggested translating this into Italian as the first concert involved Monteverdi [eventually the group supplied the music for John La Bouchardière’s production and film The Full Monteverdi — yes, a play on The Full Monty] and it sounded nicer like that. This worked well until I Fagiolini first went to Italy and discovered the various slang connotations it has there. We don’t go to Italy much.

Different dictionaries tell you that fagiolini are ‘string beans’, ‘French beans’ or ‘little beans’. The last was the one intended.

This is amazingly unhelpful. Other sources refer to the “salacious slang connotations” and the “unfortunate slang connotations (both digestive and anatomical)” of the name, and elsewhere Hollingworth coyly referred to its slang connotations in Italian as “best not propagated here”.



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