Substance massification on the golf course

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’.

In the LLog posting, I distinguished five types of conventionalized C>M conversions that can be seen as metonymies (I also looked at M>C conversions, or countifications):

 [(1)] C>M: the universal grinder. A C noun has a M use to denote a thing or things transformed (actually or imaginatively) into stuff (“The child took the flower and smashed it into pulp, and soon the table was covered with tulip”) [tulip ‘tulip bits’]

[(2)] C>M: expanse massification. A C noun has a M use to denote an assemblage of things presenting themselves en masse (“We rounded a corner in the Dutch countryside and were confronted with a huge expanse of tulip”). [tulip ‘tulip plants’]

[(3)] C>M: substance massification [above]

[(4)] C>M: meat conversion. A C noun denoting a creature has a M use to denote the edible flesh of that creature — “There’s not much rat in it!” [rat ‘rat meat’]

[(5)] C>M: sex-part conversion. A C noun denoting a sexual part has a M use denoting this part as a generalized object of lust (“I’m looking for some cunt/pussy/cock/dick/ass”). [cunt (roughly) ‘person with a cunt, considered as an object of lust’]

It’s important that these conversions are systematic, productive; we get them ‘for free’, as it were, in contrast to some other metonymies (for instance, the metonymy in the insult dick for a man, which doesn’t generalize to sex parts in general). Nevertheless, they are conventional, in the sense that the patterns, or regularities, have to be learned, as conventions of a language (variety), even if the individual items do not; as I noted in my LLog posting, not all of these patterns are available in other languages.

Since these conversions are productive, there would be little point in having a dictionary list particular massified items, and for the most part dictionaries do not, though in the case of meat conversion the practices of dictionaries vary: many dictionaries list some massified items — but only for the names of commonly eaten creatures (e.g., chicken, squab, and some other bird names,  but not dove or sparrow or many others).

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