SMASH LANG LIT: Learn the skills to excel at IB Lang Lit!
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metonymy – No, not the instrument used to keep time whilst playing the piano (ten points if you can tell me what that is called)

metonymy is similar to synecdoche, in that it is a stylistic feature through which a writer can represent something (I know… specific, right!) by using another linked word or object.

The difference between synecdoche and metonymy is subtle, but important: synecdoche uses the part of something to represent a whole object (i.e. frames for sunglasses, motor for car), whilst metonymy uses a LINKED thing (i.e. an object) to describe a whole other thing. Doesn’t have to be a part of something.

For example, when “suit” is used to describe a businessman, that’s metonymy. 

Or when “coin” is used instead of money

Or when “the crown” is used to describe the  institution that is British royalty – you guessed it: that’s metonymy.

Metonymy is used in a wide range of fiction and non-fiction, so have a look out for it when studying for Paper 1 (and, indeed, Paper 2). Refer to this feature using the following sentences (for example):

The writer employs metonymy when describing businessmen as “suits”, in order to…

The writer’s use of metonymical imagery/description when they write “suits” to represent businessmen is interesting, because…

Writers use metonymy, much in the same way that synecdoche is used: a lot more can be said in a single word, adding more descriptive power to the idea or message being communicated.

In addition, a writer can modify the tone of their writing, as metonymy is often linked to more informal/colloquial vocabulary or use of dialect.

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