From Ask Figaro:
I’m sure you won’t let Bush’s Mandela comment of today pass for long: “I heard somebody say, where’s Mandela? Well, Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.”
In this context, writes James Taranto in the WSJ, it is clear that the literal meaning of “Where’s Mandela?” is “Where is the Iraqi who will play the role in his country that Mandela played in postapartheid South Africa?” This was a pithy metaphor, not an “embarrassing gaffe.” I have to admit, I see it that way too, Fig. Can everybody else on the web be wrong?
Dear M. Stone,
The president is using an ANTONOMASIA (an-toe-noe-MAY-sia), the nicknaming figure. It uses a proper noun in place of a description, or vice versa. “You’re such a Polyanna!” “I’m no Rambo.” “Miss Cleavage” (said to describe the late Anna Nicole Smith). The antonomasia is most effective in recalling memorable characters and applying them to new situations. It links the present to the past. And, in Mr. Bush’s case, it’s a refreshing bit of figuring. Figaro loves it when journalists tie themselves in knots trying to describe a device that can be named in one (unpronounceable) word.