Saturday 31 March 2018

Grammar: Synecdoche, Ellipsis, Shorthand

Sometimes an adjective takes in the meaning of a noun it once qualified, but is now usually dropped. If you say “The atmosphere was fraught”, or “I’m feeling rather fraught”, listeners will understand that the atmosphere was strained, and that you feel tense. The entire phrase “fraught with tension” is taken as read. 

Synecdoche: “A figure of speech in which the name of a part is used to stand for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer)...” (American Heritage Dictionary)

But what do you call it when people use the same term for both the thing itself and our perception of it, or our possession of it?

I am right, you are wrong: It’s your statement that’s shown to be right or wrong, when compared with reality.

We must confront our fears: We must confront the things that make us frightened.

Early Man lived by a different kind of time: He lived by a different method of measuring or marking the passage of time.

The medieval mind was different from ours: Medieval ideas were different from ours.

There is no such thing as Truth because truths so often turn out to be false. This is switching from abstraction to specific examples, and pretending that “truth” (abstract noun meaning “trueness”) means the same as “statements put forward as truth”.

aesthetic: aesthetically pleasing
bitter: bitterly contested 
character building: building good character
citizen: good citizen

drug dealing
discrimination: discrimination against
diversity: ethnic diversity

ecstatic, delirious, drained:
ecstatically happy, delirious with joy, drained of all emotion
fashion scarves: high-fashion scarves

genetic food:
genetically modified food
grant writing: grant-application writing
greenhouse emissions: greenhouse-gas emissions

infectious personality:
personality whose gaiety is infectious
judge: judge unfavourably
livid: livid with rage

marital affairs:
extramarital affairs 
outpouring, public outpouring: public outpouring of grief 

of paramount importance
prejudice: adverse prejudice
privilege: white privilege
prohibitive: prohibitively expensive

rabidly enthusiastic, furious 
race relations: good race relations
relevant: relevant to life in the 21st century 

social mobility:
upward social mobility
value sweaters: good value

Even more rhetoric, equivocation and sophistry in my book Boo & Hooray: Dysphemisms and Euphemisms.

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