Today’s morning name (welling up during my sleep from who knows where) was mille-feuille, the pastry.
Archive for the ‘Metonymy’ Category
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’.
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.
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.
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.