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The phrase "to burn (something) in effigy" means:

To burn or to hang an image or picture of a person, as a token of public odium.

Would it be appropriate to use this phrase about an inanimate object? For example, if you had a car that was constantly breaking down, could you say you'd like to "burn it in effigy" upon buying a new car, or is this phrase used exclusively used for representations of objects of disdain?

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An effigy is a representation. You could burn a toy car in effigy of the rubbishy one you just traded in, but if you torched your actual car it wouldn't be "in effigy".

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