2

Sometimes, especially in fantasies, we attribute the function typical of one thing to another thing with a different function. For example, we say "X's ears saw something", "X's heart cried for something", etc. I wonder if there is any specific term to describe these types of phrases. The only term that comes to mind is "personification", but it's something different.

Thanks to @AndyBonner, the famous quote from William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream provides a good example for the term I'm looking for, if there is any: "The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was" (4.1).

8
  • You mean beside "metaphor"? Maybe function isn't the right word for what you're looking for. I mean, ears are not designed to hurt, but you can say his ears hurt without attributing any function. Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 17:08
  • 2
    I suspect it is a form of transferred epithet. See bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zmfc7ty/articles/zhrsf4j
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 17:12
  • @JohnLawler - But, for example, it's eyes that see, not ears!
    – BeatsMe
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 17:13
  • @Greybeard, But transferred epithets are only about adjectives, aren't they?
    – BeatsMe
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 17:19
  • 2
    Could you edit the question to clarify: Are you interested in intentional uses that "mix metaphors" for poetic or descriptive effect ("his impatient fingers tap-danced on the table"), or for confusion and mistakes, like in A Midsummer Night's Dream ("The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.") Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 17:50

1 Answer 1

1

Those would be examples of synecdoche. MW defines this as:

a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (such as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (such as society for high society), the species for the genus (such as cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (such as a creature for a man), or the name of the material for the thing made (such as boards for stage)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.