Quote: “Like McCain, he is allergic to the kind of demagoguery spewed by a John Edwards or a Mitt Romney.” Jacob Weisberg in Slate
Figure of Speech: antonomasia (an-to-no-MAY-sia), the namer. From the Greek, meaning “substitute name.”
The nation’s first primary is taking place in Figaro’s beloved vote- free- or- die state. We ornery New Hampshirites don’t usually like to follow the example of Iowans, who anointed Huckaby and Obama in their wildly complicated caucuses. But this time might be different. New Hampshire was leaning heavily toward Clinton before Obama showed her up in Iowa. Now those fickle Democrats are leaving Hillary at the altar. McCain didn’t finish first in Iowa, but he did way better than the pundits expected. Expect the two to finish first in NH.
One of those pundits, Jake Weisberg, points out that the McBama phenomenon stems in part by both candidates’ bipartisanship (or, in McCain’s contrarian case, nonpartisanship). Weinberg contrasts the two with the more craven, left- and right-field Edwards and Romney.
Note, though, that the writer refers not to the men themselves but to “a John Edwards” and “a Mitt Romney.” The result is an antonomasia, a figure that makes a descriptive phrase stand for a person or a proper noun stand for a description. Lloyd Bentsen slung the most famous political antonomasia against rival Dan Quayle during the vice presidential debate in 1988. After Quayle compared his youth with that of John F. Kennedy, Bentsen replied, “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Bentsen and Weinberg were after the same effect: to create the image of a type of politician, not just the politician himself. Figaro strongly suggests you use it next time you want to make a rival feel inadequate.
Snappy Answer: “If you need to spew, spew in this.”
Well, even Figaro isn’t perfect. At virtually the last minute, Hillary teared up, thus proving she’s actually a member of our species. She beat Obama by a slim margin of 8,000 voters and triggered a barrage of overinterpretive punditry. One thing’s for sure: this race remains very horsey.