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It's still from this sentence in New York Times,

Despite all the sartorial trappings, guests dressed like any in your typical off-the-rack hotel. On a recent Monday, there were F.I.T. parents in the slate-gray lobby, and suits trading airport stories in the elevator. There’s a chatty cocktail scene at the lobby bar, but Rare, the fiery orange dining room, was desolate.

If suits is a verb here, I think this sentence is grammatically incorrect, right? But if it's a noun, what's the meaning of suits here? I don't understand the part in bold completely. Can you help break it down and make it clear?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Suits is a noun. It means not just a person who happens to be wearing a suit right then, but a person who normally and always wears a suit. A manager, for example, might be called a suit. Those people are "trading airport stories" in your sentence - discussing something they have in common that a lot of people wouldn't normally experience, in this case things that happen when you're at the airport.

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"Trading airport stories" also reminds me of "trading war stories", i.e. specifically stories about hardship in a shared context. –  PSU Aug 11 '11 at 18:01
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Suits is an informal noun used to mean "an executive in a business or organization, typically one regarded as exercising influence in an impersonal way."

Maybe now the suits in Washington will listen.

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Suits is a colloquial term for "businessmen." It's usually not a positive term—it's often expanded to "stuffed suits," implying that the people filling those suits are basically interchangeable. Depending on context, it may be used to describe the managers of a company or any boring, stuffy business people.

Incidentally, this is an example of metonymy, a figure of speech in which a thing is called not by its name, but by something closely associated with it. Another example would be referring to the President of the United States and his administration as "The White House."

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I feel like your explanation of "suits" is better than @Kate's, but you fail to mention "trading airport stories" at all. –  wfaulk Aug 11 '11 at 17:23
    
+1 for metonymy –  Colin Fine Aug 12 '11 at 14:35
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