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    Smoke-Filled Roon

    smoking_donkey.jpgQuote: “I am not a big believer in smoke-filled rooms.”  Minnesota State Senator Amy Klobuchar, in the New York Times.

    Figure of Speech: metonymy (meh-TON-ih-mee), the scale-changing figure. From the Greek, meaning “name change.”

    Who would disagree with Senator Klobuchar? Is anyone for smoke-filled rooms? But hazy as it is, the smoke-filled room clearly demonstrates the power of figures. It takes a political concept out of thin air and obscures it with sheer rhetoric.

    Our dusky room is a metonymy, a figure that takes a part of something and makes it represent the whole (White House for the presidency, the throne for grouchy old queens). The metonymy breathes poetry into our daily speech; but when we internalize it, the figure can suck the wind out of rational thought.

    Senator Klobuchar wants the Democratic primaries, and not the super delegates at the convention, to determine the party’s presidential candidate. But party hacks in smoke-filled rooms produced an Abraham Lincoln.

    Imagine if the senator had said, “I’m not a big believer in knowledgeable political activists determining who would be the best, most winnable candidate.” That makes the smoke-filled room sound a lot healthier, doesn’t it?

    Snappy Answer:  “Do Democrats smoke?”

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    Reader Comments (8)

    I should also have mentioned that the quote constitutes a LITOTES, a form of understatement.

    February 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    "The metonymy breathes poetry into our daily speech; but when we internalize it, the figure can suck the wind out of rational thought."

    This is SUCH an important, intelligent thought, fittingly and succinctly expressed. Wow, you are amazing! Thanks.

    February 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine
    I believe that primary votes are to be preferred over smoke-filled rooms, but that does not apply to votes from caucuses. There one is in a room with his minister or his boss or someone else who might inhibit the free exercise of will.I believe that everyone should have a blind vote. Besides, few from the lower classes even go to caucuses. Caucus numbers of voters are always a minuscule sampling of total voters -- look it up. Let us change this or go back to those smoke-filled rooms.
    February 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterW Rickman
    I'm sorry, but I must correct your spelling. I believe you mean a "smoke-filled *RUIN*", no? Or is it a "smoke-filled *RUNE*"? Either works. David Block
    February 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Block
    In response to Figaro's snappy answer:
    "Yes, but they don't inhale."
    February 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMary Chilton
    How does metonymy differ from synecdoche?
    February 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterA Lauden
    The metonymy takes a part and makes it represent the whole. The synecdoche takes a species or individual and makes it represent the genus or group.

    February 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    A metonymy takes something related to an object and substitutes it for that object; for example, the "White House" for the Presidency, or "the Throne" for the Queen. A synecdoche substitutes a part of of the object for the whole; for example, a "hired hand" for a worker.
    March 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteraljackson_jr

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