The Figure in the Idiom

Research English OPEN
JONES, Willie (1996)
  • Publisher: 北海学園大学人文学会
  • Journal: 北海学園大学人文論集, volume 6, pages 1-30
  • Subject: idiom | metaphor | metonymy

The argument: every metaphor and metaphoric idiom grows out of and is nourished by a seminal metonymy. Since these germinating seeds-and the mineral elements which feed them-work under cover, we tend to overlook them when we feast off harvests cropped from the fields of metaphor: and we therefore forget to take into account the radical fecundity of the metonymic germ. This essay attempts to remedy such forgetfulness. At the same time, it also claims that metonymy (a figure of rhetoric) and implication (a habit of logic) name the same generating constituent-the sap which sustains the metaphoric plant-and that our intuitive sense of this interdependence enables us to see how a figurative expression or idiom achieves its end-at least, when it is still possible to locate the source. While most other diggers in the fields of idiomatic language prefer either to sift through the soil for the taproots of syntactic structure or delve into deeper psycho-linguistic seams, I sieve my samples to trace and select for analysis those elements which germinate and fertilize the metonymic seeds-and so feed the crops of metaphorical language with their necessary rhetorico-semantic nutriments. I sort a few specimens exhumed by myself or culled from two recent publications, a Thesaurus of English Metaphors and the proceedings of a symposium on idioms held recently in the Netherlands.
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