Metonymy

Because I am a closeted masochist, I like to read financial news. That’s how I keep in touch with the end of the world:

The U.S. lost more jobs in 2008 than in any year since 1945 as employers fired another 524,000 people in December, indicating a free-fall in the economy . . . “Consumers are now going to get more and more scared at the prospect of losing their job,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight (Source)

I direct your attention to the use of “Consumers.” This is a figure of speech, known as metonymy, in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated.

That an economist should characterize people as consumers — instead of citizens — should hardly be a surprise: one of the pillars of the American empire is consumerism. We, the plebeians, of the United States of America are merely the vehicles for that most important of commodities: money.

Don’t get me wrong, I love money: It keeps me from being hungry and cold.

But I fear it also keeps me from being human.

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One Response to Metonymy

  1. Travis says:

    The “lost/gained more x since year yyyy” is the newest cliche in reporting.

    The worst I’ve heard: “The decision left British borrowing costs at their lowest since formation of the Bank of England in 1694.”

    Surely, we’re not comparing apples to apples if we’re comparing the 21st century to the 17th century. There’s a lot to account for in the intervening 314 years.

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