Even when we’re not aware of it, we’re using many of the same rhetorical techniques Aristotle, Cicero, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other greats have employed in public speaking. Each month, The Buckley School's resident students of classical rhetoric explain a rhetorical device and show us how it’s being used for good and for evil.
BY JANA DALEY and JENNY MAXWELL
If you’ve ever referred to the U.S. executive branch of government as “The White House” or talked about an ad campaign “getting eyeballs,” you’ve used our rhetorical device of the month.
Here are some examples of using the part to refer to the whole:
The reverse seems a little less common, but examples include:
Yes, you’ll find this device used frequently in politics, love sonnets, and sports broadcasting.
Synecdoche is similar to another figure of speech—metonymy—though it can be hard to distinguish between the two (if you even care to make the distinction).
According to most definitions:
Synecdoche is using a part to represent the whole—or vice versa.
Metonymy uses something closely related to represent the thing it references.
Here’s the reasoning from the metonymy camp: Suits are not a part of the businessperson (like bubbly is an essential part of Champagne) but instead are an object closely associated with businesspeople.
We’ll leave you to debate that over a glass of bubbly with your rhetorical device-loving friends.
Meanwhile, we’ll be keeping an ear out for uses of synecdoche and metonymy—wherever it’s bringing color, symbolism, or conversational flair to messages we hear every day.
Our online magazine with tips, news, and instruction for youView All Entries ⟶