Daily Archives: October 24, 2008

metonymy

A companionable word needed by all, from the crown through the suits on Bay Street to blue-collar Main Street, but not so well known outside the ivory tower. It has a somewhat homely roundedness of soft nasals broken up by one crisp, pointy t. It may make Muppets fans (and others) think of “Mahna Mahna.” It could echo autonomy, but that word is open and clear where this one is covered and mutters. It may seem self-absorbed, starting with me and ending with the sound “me,” but its meaning is unavoidably self-effacing. It can’t avoid an arcane appearance with its twin y‘s in the back half (separated by an m like a comb between cowlicks). The ton in the middle may add some weight, though it has the most open part of the word, at least where tongue and lips are concerned, and it has a sound more echoing tawny. Word lovers are likely to recognize the onymy, but there is the risk of confusing it with onomy, as in astronomy; this one is as in pseudonymy – it refers to a thing done with words. And have you met the met? You have quite often, in its full form as meta, from the Greek for “with,” “after,” or “between.” So this is a word for using the word for something that goes with what you’re really referring to. Every blue-stocking should know that, but even a rough-and-tumble hired gun could use it.