Pre-AP: clarification of synecdoche

I admittedly balked today when, right at the bell ending third period, a student asked for more examples of synecdoche. The reason for this is that the first two examples I thought of were ones I’d hoped to avoid using right away. One is a quote from a play we have yet to read together, so I was wary of using it for fear that the lack of context might be confusing. I can provide context here though, so here it is:

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!” The speaker was imploring a rowdy crowd to come listen to a speech he was about to deliver. He obviously wanted the presence of their whole bodies and attention, not just to borrow their ears. This example did, however, inspire a comical moment in a Mel Brooks film. You can go watch it now, but DO NOT get distracted and watch YouTube videos for the next hour! Come back!:

This leads me to the second one I thought of at the end of third period, which I initially avoided because it is often used in a very rude way: the reference to one’s backside as representative of the entire body. For example, an angry parent who discovers a mess left in the kitchen by his or her child may shout something to the effect of “get your rear end in here and clean this up right now!” I didn’t think that would be the nicest way to end class, so again, I held off until I could offer more explanation. It is a good example, though not one I recommend using in your daily conversations.

And now for a few non-body related examples:

I saved up enough money and got myself a set of wheels.   (In this instance, “wheels” refers an entire car.)

All hands on deck! (I’m pretty sure a ship caption would throw overboard any cheeky sailor who literally placed his hands on the deck at this command, because clearly he meant he wanted everyone there).

I hope these examples help.


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