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Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
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    Prick It. Does It Bleed?

    The dissent says that “ ‘speech’ ” refers to oral communications of human beings, and since corporations are not human beings they cannot speak. This is sophistry.

    Justice Antony Scalia, footnote in a concurring opinion in Citizens United v. FEC

     synecdoche, the generalizing trope. From the Greek, meaning “swap.”

    For the past century, federal law has prohibited corporations from using their own treasury to promote or trash a candidate. The Supremes yesterday upended Congress with a sweeping judgment: corporations have the same speech rights as people, and can spend their money on political speech without government interference.

    Figaro is thrilled that one of the most important Supreme Court cases in a decade revolved around a synecdoche. This tricky trope takes a part or constituent of something and makes it stand for the whole. Or the reverse. “America won 15 golds in Canada” is a double synecdoche—“golds” stand for gold medals, and “America” stands for the athletes. Got it?

    In the Supreme Court case, the question came down to whether a corporation—that potent mix of people and money—is, under the Constitution, a person. Their answer: yes. And so the synecdoche “I got screwed by my banker” takes on a richer, more literal meaning.

    We urge you to buy protection.

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    Reader Comments (3)

    Doesn't Figaro mean to say "I got screwed by my bank" rather than (the more intimate) "banker?"

    [Genie, sent to Figaro in an email.]
    January 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    Excellent question. According to the Supreme Court of the United States, "banker" is the correct (synecdochal) usage. Chase Manhattan, for example, is for legal purposes a person (his few friends call him Chase). Whatever he does to us should have our consent. Otherwise, as the expression goes, we're screwed.
    January 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    agree with the last comment
    February 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commentere.lee

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