Quote: “You caught up your time, you lose your thing, you think you got to blow.” James Brown, lyrics from It’s a New Day.
Figure of Speech: synecdoche (sin-EC-do-kee), the genus-species swap. From the Greek, meaning “swap.”
Good God, y’all! The hardest working man in show business is giving it a rest. James Brown died on Christmas at the age (did really he have an age?) of 73.
Brown’s death calls to mind one of the wife-beating soulmaster’s most telling songs, “It’s a New Day,” a 1969 protest against women’s liberation. “Fellas, things done got too far gone,” he muses at the song’s beginning. “We gotta let the girls know what they gotta do for us!”
He then turns to the women — or Woman, rather — and advises, “Never get so confident.” In singing to all of femaledom as a single ideal woman (“Walk away and twist your hip, make sure you keep him weak”), Brown employs one of the most powerful of all figures, the synecdoche. It uses a part to stand for the whole, or an individual to stand for a group, and lets you address an entire audience as a single person. In skillful hands, the synecdoche can make each audience member to think you speak directly to her.
Which is what Figaro hopes he’s doing right now.
Snappy Answer: “Speak for yourself, man.”