The Sin of Syndoche and Meta Metonymy—Literary Devices as Prompts

Syndoche and metonymy are figures of speech we all use daily. When we talk about policies from the current administration, we often say something like “The White House unveiled its newest proposal for ....,” which is an example of metonymy. Crown to refer to the monarchy or specficially to a king or queen is another common metonymy found throughout literature and history. 

Synecdoche is similar to metonymy (and usually confused with it on AP exams), but syndoche calls something by one of its parts rather than simply calling something by something else closely associated with it. Sails for ships, wheels for cars, coke for all sodas or kleenex for tissues (in spite of copyright laws) are all examples of syndoche. One syndoche that has been overused politically is “boots on the ground” to refer to sending soldiers directly to a region. 

For more examples of syndoche and metonymy, including literary excerpts, check out this site that I find useful in helping students. Now that you have the explananations (regardless if you mix them up), I want you to develop a poem and fill it up using both or either of these devices but create your own. Rather than relegating your emotions to your heart, maybe your sinuses indicate the depth of your passion. A really intense orgasm gives me a runny nose. No idea why. Perhaps mucus is my lubricate. Instead of thoughts and prayers, maybe you send chips and salsa. Rather than pen or sword, what mightier for you—a Tweet or a vine? My daughter doesn’t “see” people as colors but distinguishes them as individual scents, so perhaps my “soul” is the scent of bed sheets and dryer lint, which she claims is a “good” smell. Not sure St. Peter will agree, but hard to say. Make this personal (and better yet in my estimation, make it weird) but leave a trail for readers to follow if they have to jump across a lot of ravines and onto slippery stones. 

And here are links to two poems I just love. Whether they are good examples for the prompt or not, fuck it, I just want to link them so that you may read them if you haven’t already. The first is Ocean Vuong’s “Aubade with Burning City” and the second is Jamaal May’s “There Are Birds Here”—both featured by the Poetry Foundation.