I understand the basic difference between metonymy and synecdoche (thanks in part to this question) but got stumped on "baby blues" as another way of saying eyes. Am I right that it is synecdoche as the "blue" iris is a part of the eye, even though blue is an attribute of the iris rather than the iris itself?

Edit: An example of what I mean by "baby blues" for eyes is "She looked away, tears sparkling in her baby blues."

  • @medica: Good point. I'd not thought of "the baby blues" when I wrote the question. Updated to give an example. – DocMax Sep 12 '14 at 6:05
  • Typos: It's metonymy or synecdoche – Mari-Lou A Sep 12 '14 at 7:16
  • There is not a consensus over the exact interrelationship between metonymy and synecdoche: overlapping sets or set and subset? Also, deletions ('baby blues' for 'baby blue eyes') complicates analysis. As others here imply, trying to analyse this one beyond the 'it's an idiom' (whether slang or not) level is probably not advantageous. Note also that 'baby browns', 'baby grays' ... are non-idiomatic. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 12 '14 at 7:51
  • @EdwinAshworth: It it's a deletion (from baby blue eyes), then it's not also a synecdoche because eyes are not a part of eyes. – MSalters Sep 12 '14 at 11:28
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    @MSalters '30 000 foot', short for '30 000 footsoldiers', is considered to be a synecdoche. Wikipedia lists 'strings', short for 'string instruments', as a synecdoche. Deletion may be how most synecdoches have arisen. 'England' is used for 'the England Football Team' etc. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 12 '14 at 17:54

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is only an example of slang: words that are not considered part of the standard vocabulary of a language and that are used very informally in speech especially by a particular group of people. - MW

It is certainly alliterative: the repetition of the B sound, but other than that, I can't really think that there is another literary device at work here.

Synecdoche is use of a part to symbolize a whole, e.g. "All hands on deck" means every crew member report to the deck. Conversely, using the whole to refer to a part, if one hears that, say, Tennessee is in the lead in a basketball game, we know that it's not all of Tennessee, but merely a team.

Metonymy is when the word use to describe another thing is closely linked to that particular thing, but is not a part of it. For example, "give me a hand" means "give me some help". Hands are usually involved, but the metonymy is using hand for help.

I'm not sure it's a metaphor (though it might be). A metaphor for blue eyes might be "azure pools to drown in" (sorry, I'm not a writer).

Oh, and as to part of speech, it functins as an adjective + noun in your sentence.

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    Thanks for reminding me that the answer to "Is this X or Y?" might actually be "No." – DocMax Sep 15 '14 at 6:07

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