When I was a kid, a classmate once actually accused me of reading the dictionary. And an accusation it was; you could tell by the tone of his voice and the look on his face, a strange mixture of bewilderment and unease. His expression suggested I’d committed a crime worthy of punishment when I’d used whatever big word I’d used, and if I answered “yes,” to the question of reading the dictionary, justice would be meted out in the form of ridicule and simple-worded taunts. He wouldn’t have hit me; I was a girl after all.
But you know what? I wasn’t afraid. I answered boldly. “That’s affirmative,” I said, looking him right in the eye. “I occasionally peruse the dictionary to improve my grasp of the English lexicon.” I raised a ten-year-old eyebrow. “Don’t you?”
OK, maybe I didn’t say it quite that way. I don’t remember exactly what I said. But I wasn’t embarrassed or humiliated by the boy’s question or his tone that implied I was an alien from outer-space, and not one he wanted to play with at recess. I thought words were interesting. I collected them like bright, polished rocks, fingering them and delighting in their colors, shapes and patterns. I played a game called fictionary with my family that involved finding a word in the dictionary you thought no one would know, and coming up with wild definitions that might trick your brother/ mother/ father into voting for yours instead of the real definition (I think there’s a commercialized version of that now where you don’t really have to own a dictionary or open any book. Play that one if you don’t want to be accused of reading the dictionary, but be prepared to be ridiculed with large-worded taunts by those of us who played the REAL game).
So, what’s the point of my story today? I must not have read the dictionary enough as a child, because I learned a new word today that I should have known years ago. Metonymy. Don’t know what it means? Go look it up.
Fine. For you lazy folks who don’t want to leave the comfort of your chair, here’s a link to a lousy online dictionary. It’s nothing like opening the thin, fragile pages of a dictionary, particularly one that’s really old and smells like mildew, with a spine that’s falling apart that scatters bits of brittle, yellowed glue across your desk every time you open it.* Which is frequently. But, it will give you an idea of what the word means.
Can you find the metonymy in the sentences below?
“Hey, check out the suit drinking his triple-shot, skinny, vente white-chocolate mocha with whip. He probably reads the dictionary for fun.”
“That pickled ox-tale with natto is the best dish I’ve ever had! Chez Nakamura really hit it out of the park this time.” (There’s two here, btw).
*Confession: I’m describing the dictionary we used as a kid for fictionary. I don’t actually own a paper dictionary anymore, relying on my Apple dictionary/ thesaurus. But it’s really a problem because then I don’t run across really cool words when looking up the primary word for which I opened my dictionary in the first place. THAT’S how you end up “reading” the dictionary, really. You get distracted. Lured away down some twisting path of words and definitions. It’s particularly perilous when you spell as badly as I do. You might be looking up undulate, and find yourself in the O or the A pages. You might never find your way to U. But guaranteed you’ll stumble upon something equally as interesting in your search, maybe something like metonymy.
Cute little alien from: http://www.fg-a.com/aliens.htm