Generic Terminalogy eg Hoover / Kleenex
January 28, 2005 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Kleenex = any facial tissue. Xerox = any copy machine. "There are thousands of Milky Ways out there."

What's the word for using the name of a specific thing to refer to all things in its class? It's metonymy, right, but is it synecdoche? Is it antonomasia? Help!
posted by goatdog to Writing & Language (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think it's called "Corporate Branding of MindSpace." no, for real, it's synecdoche.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synecdoche
posted by eustatic at 1:50 PM on January 28, 2005


I saw that, but other rhetoric sites aren't as generous with the examples as wikipedia is. For example, BYU's normally helpful site is annoyingly limited on this one. I suppose I'm looking for a consensus.
posted by goatdog at 1:52 PM on January 28, 2005


A trademark owner might call it genericide.
posted by caddis at 2:00 PM on January 28, 2005


Frisbee. Yo-Yo. Saran wrap. Hula hoop. Why? WHYYYYY?
posted by Specklet at 2:01 PM on January 28, 2005


Milky Way, the name of our galaxy, is not a trademark (which is specifically why I included it in the list, although I see that I didn't make it clear enough that I was talking about the galaxy. Sorry about the confusion. No, I'm not asking about genericide.
posted by goatdog at 2:05 PM on January 28, 2005


I asked for an adhesive bandage once (instead of "band-aid") and got large wrapping tape (for sport injuries).
posted by null terminated at 2:06 PM on January 28, 2005


"trampoline," "kerosene," "escalator," and "cellophane"
posted by caddis at 2:07 PM on January 28, 2005


Some more good examples.
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 2:08 PM on January 28, 2005


And, to go further back, aspirin, zipper, thermos. I always think of synecdoche as a part/whole relationship [as in the examples in the wikipedia] and not specific/general. According to this random syllabus, the word you're looking for is Inductive antonomasia, you're correct.
posted by jessamyn at 2:09 PM on January 28, 2005 [1 favorite]


Aren't these just all instances of two tropes being used at once? "Antonomasia" is when you use a proper name to stand for something more generic (or vice versa), and "synecdoche" is when you use a part to stand for the whole. When you use the proper name of a part to stand for the larger whole, you're just basically using the two tropes at once.
posted by LairBob at 2:18 PM on January 28, 2005


heroin
posted by falconred at 2:40 PM on January 28, 2005


How about eponymy or prototypy? I remember hearing a special name for eponymous brand names, but I forgot what it was.
posted by ~rschram at 2:59 PM on January 28, 2005


Actually Milky Way is a trademark of Mars, Inc.
posted by benzo8 at 3:20 PM on January 28, 2005


Household name.
posted by Napierzaza at 3:31 PM on January 28, 2005


I suppose technically it's a pars pro toto, since you're referring to the entire group by the name of a part of it. If you're referring to part of the group by the name of another part of the group though, I don't know.
posted by fvw at 4:07 PM on January 28, 2005


Actually Milky Way is a trademark of Mars, Inc.

Not when it's dealing with the galaxy. Man, I really phrased that question badly. I should have added "I don't want more examples of brand names that have ended up like xerox or aspirin."
posted by goatdog at 4:09 PM on January 28, 2005


Even more: Dumpster, Realtor and TelePromTer
posted by TBoneMcCool at 4:24 PM on January 28, 2005


The great Willard Espy wrote an entire book on this subject, and I highly recommend it (and his other works, too).
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:33 PM on January 28, 2005


It isn't a synecdoche-- a synecdoche is when you use part of something to refer to an entire thing. A famous example is "all hands on deck" where hands is the synedoche (unless you only want those sailors' hands and not the rest of their bodies).

A metonymy means that a words refers not just to itself but to something very closely related to it (the kettle is boiling, for example, since it isn't really the kettle that is boiling, it is the water inside the kettle).
posted by synecdoche at 6:03 PM on January 28, 2005


At first I thought 'eponym', but Wikipedia's definition doesn't fit. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin is eponymous, Kleenex is not.

Also agree that synecdoche (the term, not the user) is wrong. Referring to the monarch of a state as the 'crown', as in Crown Prosecutor or Crown vs. Davis, is a common example of a synecdoche.
posted by Ritchie at 10:01 PM on January 28, 2005


While I'd hate to argue with someone who's actually decided to _nickname themselves_ "synecdoche", I don't see how this isn't necessarily a use of the trope. Yes, of course...if you're a rhetorical pedant like everyone here (which is great), then then "synecdoche" means "using the part to refer to the whole", in the ways you and Ritchie have described. Nevertheless, this seems a pretty fair extension of the term into modern times.

After all, "Kleenex"-brand tissues are definitely a subset of the overall "tissue" universe. I don't think the original definition of synecdoche obviously could have anticipated the idea of brand names like this--and like I said before, there's more going on than just synecdoche--but I definitely think it still applies.
posted by LairBob at 10:25 PM on January 28, 2005


Hoover vs Vacuum Cleaner
posted by armoured-ant at 4:39 AM on January 29, 2005


Ritchie almost had it: they're called Proprietary Eponyms.
posted by deshead at 5:47 AM on January 29, 2005


Yes, of course...if you're a rhetorical pedant like everyone here (which is great), then then "synecdoche" means "using the part to refer to the whole", in the ways you and Ritchie have described. Nevertheless, this seems a pretty fair extension of the term into modern times.

Dude, you want to use rhetorical terminology like "synecdoche" and not be a rhetorical pedant? However, you're in luck, and synecdoche has at least since Cicero, I believe, been taken to refer to cases of the part-whole substution in which a species (lower-order category) stands in for a genus (the higher-order category to which it belongs), as well as cases involving physical part-whole relationships.

These are all also metonymies, as all synecdoches are metonymies, though not all metonymies are synecdoches. So if you're ever feeling unsure about whether something quite qualifies as a synecdoche, you can generally call it a metonymy and be safe.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:44 AM on January 29, 2005


rft, I definitely meant to include myself in that class.
posted by LairBob at 8:23 AM on January 29, 2005


Lairbob, I think it is a different thing, since in "all hands on deck" the hands are technically parts of the people, whereas "Kleenex" is an example of a tissue.

I'd say that it is a metonymy, but not a synecdoche.
posted by synecdoche at 10:56 AM on January 29, 2005


Misnomer?
posted by BradNelson at 11:52 AM on January 29, 2005


"Kleenex" is an example of a tissue.

Yes, this is the species/genus sense of synecdoche.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:37 PM on January 29, 2005


I don't believe that there is a species/genus sense of synecdoche.
posted by bingo at 10:55 PM on January 29, 2005


I don't believe that there is a species/genus sense of synecdoche.

You can not believe in it, but rhetoricians have been referring to one since at least Rhetorica ad Herennium (IV: xxxiii). Also, and even more clearly, see Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria (VIII: xix) which may be the first to use the actual terms "species" and "genus".

For modern rhetorics, see the Silva Rhetoricae or Edward Corbett's Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student (page 445 in the third edition).
posted by redfoxtail at 7:57 AM on January 30, 2005


redfoxtail: The fact that you're giving chapters and page numbers instead of quotations suggests to me that you aren't really confident in your argument; otherwise you would just give a quotation. As for your link (exactly the same link that the user who asked this question was wise enough to call 'annoyingly limited' at the top of the thread):

"He shall think differently," the musketeer threatened, "when he feels the point of my steel."
A sword, the species, is represented by referring to its genus, "steel."


This is a horrid oversimplification. A sword is not a species, it is a whole argument in itself whether or not a particular sword can be accurately called a subset of steel in general, and even at a metaphorical level, it is highly unlikely that this is what the speaker/writer has in mind.

When you start dealing with non-quantifiable nouns, then the idea of 'a part standing for the whole' is harder to pin down. If you say that you have 200 head of cattle, you are using a part to signify the whole, but just as significantly, you are not telling a falsehood. You do indeed have 200 cattle heads; the fact that you also have the rest of the bodies is understood.

This is much different from saying that you have 200 head of cattle when you in fact mean that you only have one head of cattle, or that you have a million. It's also different than saying that you have a head of cattle when you mean that you have one cow and one horse. There is not a law against using such a construction to express yourself, but it isn't synecdoche. If there is a word for it, I admit I don't know what it is, but it's well-covered by more general descriptors like 'sloppy' and 'misleading.'

What's more, most of the time, when people use the word 'kleenex' to mean 'tissue,' they are doing it because they think that those two words are interchangable.

There are, no doubt, a lof of definitions out there that don't go into enough detail to encompass every possible misinterpretation. The fact that we can find definitions of synecdoche as straightforward as 'using a part to stand for a whole' does not mean that the definition will always apply, no matter how broadly we define 'part' or 'whole,' and regardless of what the context is.
posted by bingo at 9:53 AM on January 30, 2005


The fact that you're giving chapters and page numbers instead of quotations suggests to me that you aren't really confident in your argument; otherwise you would just give a quotation.

I was actually trying to avoid going into it endlessly and typing a lot. Have you actually looked up the citations, or are you just trying to be insulting?

The examples in Silva aren't wonderful, it's true. (I was using it merely as an example to show that modern sources continue to list species/genus substitutions under synecdoche.) Your example with the heads of cattle is not relevant to this discussion, as that's not a case of someone's using the name of a species to refer to its genus. You might prefer the examples from Corbett, who cites bread for food and cutthroat for assassin.

What's more, most of the time, when people use the word 'kleenex' to mean 'tissue,' they are doing it because they think that those two words are interchangable.

Perfectly true -- compare the notion of the so-called dead metaphor. It's entirely possible for something to be a fully conventionalized synecdoche (or metonymy, or metaphor).
posted by redfoxtail at 10:46 AM on January 30, 2005


Since redfoxtail doesn't want to type it in, here's the relevant quotation from Corbett's Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, the relevant page can be read here on Amazon. "Species substituted for the genus" is one of four examples Corbett provides of the synecdoche (also "genus substituted for the species", "part substituted for the whole", and "matter for what it is made from"); Corbett's examples of species/genus substitutions include, as she noted, "bread" for "food".
posted by snarkout at 11:05 AM on January 30, 2005


Derf. Sorry, my cut and paste from Amazon did not seem to work so well.
posted by snarkout at 11:07 AM on January 30, 2005


Oh, here we go -- I found an online translation of the Quintilian. (It's the 1920 Loeb edition.) This quote shows that species/genre substitutions were being included under the rubric of synecdoche as long ago as the first century BCE. (The only point I'm trying to make, by the way, is that there is a venerable tradition of including these kinds of constructions in the category labeled "synecdoche," and that this tradition continues to the present.)

The relevant bit of Quintilian, in English:

For while metaphor is designed to move the feelings, give special distinction to things and place them vividly before the eye, synecdoche has the power to give variety to our language by making us realise many things from one, the whole from a part, the genus from a species...

In Latin:

Metaphora enim aut vacantem locum occupare debet aut, si in alienum venit, plus valere eo quod expellit. Quod [aliquando] paene iam magis de synecdoche dicam. Nam tralatio permovendis animis plerumque et signandis rebus ac sub oculos subiciendis reperta est: haec variare sermonem potest, ut ex uno pluris intellegamus, parte totum, specie genus...
posted by redfoxtail at 11:13 AM on January 30, 2005


Okay, I'm wrong.

I was actually trying to avoid going into it endlessly and typing a lot. Have you actually looked up the citations, or are you just trying to be insulting?

Actually, since you didn't give a link, and I didn't find your first reference on a cursory search, I thought that they weren't available online and that you were referring to volumes you had physically sitting on your desk.
posted by bingo at 4:02 PM on January 30, 2005


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