Sydney Barringer jumps from the ninth floor rooftop. His parents argue three stories below. Fay's accidental shotgun blast hits Sydney in the stomach as he passes the arguing sixth floor window. Google Books

This doesn't appear to be exactly synecdoche as the window is not part of the arguing people. Anthropomorphism also sprang to mind but I am not sure that is the case here either. That there is an element of anthropomorphism or personification is not disputed, but I doubt that gives the whole picture, because besides the personification of the window this line also connects the window to the arguing people.

Also I don't think anthropomorphism is a figure of speech. What is this then? Figure of speech or some other concept?

  • Is the window arguing, on any level? Or is this very dark humor turning the window of the arguing at the sixth floor into the "arguing window"? May 28, 2020 at 21:13
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    It's merely a shorthand for "the sixth floor window where the argument was taking place". You can call this "synecdoche" if you wish, but that's really overthinking it.
    – Hot Licks
    May 28, 2020 at 22:10
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    It strikes me as such a weak piece of writing that it isn't worth analysing. Nothing is gained by using "arguing window" rather than "their window" or "the sixth floor window". It draws attention to itself, which interrupts the pace. May 28, 2020 at 22:13
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    @OldBrixtonian I think you have it and even hold back. This is an awful or even failed attempt at poetically telescoping a longer coherent phrase into a mess. As any school teacher knows, there are mistakes by native speakers and this is one. As though the writer had multiple ideas on how to write the sentence and none of them won out, each providing a little relevant piece to the incoherent whole.
    – Mitch
    Jun 1, 2020 at 13:07

3 Answers 3


I think synecdoche is most correct answer here, although it is a surprising example. Synecdoche is not always strictly about a relationship of a part to a whole. A classic example is that an athlete is a jockstrap, or "jock". The jockstrap is not part of the athlete. Another example is where a container is used to refer to its contents, e.g. "He drank the keg". I think this example is similar to that. It would be more common to say something like "The sixth floor was arguing", but your example works the same way.


If anything— this is an example (albeit, perhaps a sloppy one)— of metonymy.

My reason for going with metonymy instead of synecdoche is that with the former, the substituted word is merely something associated with it, while with the latter, a part represents the whole or vice-versa.


Definitely a figure of speech, it may be more specifically defined, but I feel almost certainly is a form of irony.

The first OED definition of irony is as follows. Take particular note of the parts I have highlighted.

As a mass noun. The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect; esp. (in earlier use) the use of approbatory language to imply condemnation or contempt (cf. sarcasm n.). In later use also more generally: a manner, style, or attitude suggestive of the use of this kind of expression. Cf. ironia n. The meaning in quot. a1657 is obscure. See also Romantic irony n. at romantic adj. and n. Compounds

The precise application of the term has varied over time and remains the subject of much discussion. Irony is first recorded as a rhetorical figure used in sentences and (later) extended pieces of writing having a particular tone and intent. In 20th-cent. criticism application of irony has expanded to encompass non-verbal expression in fields such as art and music where it denotes a distancing from and playful engagement with what has come before. For a fuller discussion see E. N. Hutchens ‘The Identification of Irony’ in ELH (1960) 27 352-63 and N. Knox The Word 'Irony' & its Context, 1500–1755 (1961).


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