Metonymy is a figure of speech that uses a phrase that is indicative of, and associated to, an actual concept
. The actual term is substituted by a word or a phrase that refers to the concept that is being spoken about. For instance, when you go to a bar and order a drink, instead of asking for a beer, you may directly ask for a Budweiser. Here, you are using the product name to refer to the product. As such, you are using a type of metonymy. In order to understand this better, here’s a look into some more examples of metonymy.
- He writes a fine hand. This is indicative of the fact that someone has a good handwriting.
- Fox News has always maintained… Here Fox News is used is a collective term for its team members.
- As the bullet pierced his chest, I watched the life flow out of him. The term life has been used to refer to blood, as blood is integral to the human body and is therefore symbolic of life.
- She is the shoulder I always cry on. This commonly used phrase is a great example of metonymy. It refers to a whole as a part, as in fact, it is the person herself who is a great listener of others’ woes.
- The blueberry pie wants to see the chef. This is what you will commonly hear in restaurants, as waiters and waitresses refer to their customers by their orders, providing yet another great example of metonymy.
So we have established that metonymy is used as a means of ‘reference’ in oral and written language, beyond which it also provides a clear understanding of this reference. We probably don’t realize it but we use this figure of speech in our daily lives all the time. Even if we are unfamiliar with the concept of metonymy, if someone spoke to us using this figure of speech, we would be able to understand it clearly because of the reference that has been used.