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16 September 2008 @ 11:28 am
Trying to understand a new word  
My Word Master Friends,


Is Kleenex a synecdoche of facial tissues?

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the definition and its use. I discovered it in Longitude by Dava Sobel, and in a context that was unrevealing to me.

If the above is not a proper use of it, can you give me a sentence that is?

Thank you!
Current Music: "Flaming Clouds (Airbase)" - Alex M.O.R.P.H.
marc17marc17 on September 16th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
"eponyms" or "brand eponym" seems to be the answer.

Synecdoche does not seem to be the answer as defined as the items are not being described as a part of the item.
Satan's Tilt-A-Whirlsavannarama on September 16th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC)
I agree. Kleenex is not part of facial tissue, nor is facial tissue part of Kleenex. Eponym does seem right.

I hadn't heard a word describing the synecdoche concept before; pretty cool.
Satan's Tilt-A-Whirlsavannarama on September 16th, 2008 06:59 pm (UTC)
Although "the species for the genus (as cutthroat for assassin)" is arguable. Kleenex could be seen as a species of facial tissue. However, Kleenex is constantly used as a perfect example of the eponym, like "Band-aid" (which is not all bandages, but has become a word for all bandages).

Most of the definition of synecdoche seems focused on parts vs. whole, though.
sculptruth on September 16th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)

Just like people say "Coke" for any soft drink (not common I suppose, but I've known a few). Or "Hobart" for any upright mixer (common in restaurants). "Wheels" for car. "Threads" for clothes.

Somewhere in here there's a clever joke about politicians, but I haven't had enough coffee to get there from here.

I need more Starbucks in my Synecdoche.
(Deleted comment)
sculptruth on September 16th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
Metonym, sure; I'm dubious about eponym. It's generalising to use proprietary terms like "coke" or "hobart" or "aspirin" but I think that it's nonetheless a valid example of the word in question.
Kburgunder on September 16th, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
I think, based on Savannah's later comment, that eponyms (metronyms? Oh dear gods, I didn't sign up for 3 new words! Just 1! -laugh- ) might be a subset of synecdoches. Cutthroat can refer to assassin, by the Merriam-Webster definition, which I think is the same idea as the Kleenex for facial tissue example...

When even a grammatical definition is open to debate, I think it's fair to say the parent language is INSANE! :) Silly silly crazy silly English.
sculptruth on September 16th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
True true; I much prefer Spanish or French, both of which just make a hell of a lot more sense than English to me. This complicated mess is too semantic for my taste.

Kburgunder on September 16th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
I think I'm very mildly anti-semantics, but as a form of self-love. I'm pretty loose with semantics, which I know drives some people crazy, but which makes it a million times easier for me to pick up new languages because my focus is on communicating an idea rather than on perfecting the form it takes.

Somewhere in the Tao Te Ching there is a pointed little piece which always cracks me up with Lao Tzu acknowledging while there is a difference in "yes" and "no", it's a silly waste of energy to fight over the difference between "maybe" and "perhaps", or even "maybe" and "yes".
Douglaschiaspod on September 16th, 2008 07:31 pm (UTC)
Um, they're:
a) not really open to debate. Misunderstanding, yes. But say "eponym" or "metonym" to an English professor and they're going to know exactly what it means. :)
b) A cutthroat is a specific subset of the overall class of assassins - there are snipers, stranglers, poisoners, etc. A Kleenex is neither a subcomponent nor superset of facial tissue - it encompasses the whole, and shares a 1:1 definition with facial tissue. It is completely synonymous, and can be used interchangeably.

b-sub-1) You wouldn't say "a cutthroat shot Lincoln in the head." :)

English is extremely complex, yet predictable - the reason it seems insane is that most people have better things to do than learn the majority of underlying structures. It's no more complicated than French's spelling, for instance.
Kburgunder on September 16th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)
heh, as is always the case, i didn't communicate the full and precise sentence i intended... (a) i wasn't trying to imply the definition itself was open to debate, but rather than the interpretation of the definition is, as evidenced by this suddenly very popular thread ;>

Edited at 2008-09-16 07:44 pm (UTC)
Kburgunder on September 16th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)
b-sub-1) You wouldn't say "a cutthroat shot Lincoln in the head." :)

But that wouldn't be cutthroat used as a synecdoche anyway, right? Wouldn't it be more like, as you walk past death row, you dismissively say, "Cutthroats, the lot of them!" even if some of them were poisoners, assassins, etc.? Would it be correct to say that cutthroat is here a synecdoche for all murderers...?

I'm still having a hard time both creating a proper synecdoche example and using the world itself in a sentence.

*crosses eyes*
Khallis: Kanekhallis on September 17th, 2008 10:22 am (UTC)
Regarding the last two sentences of point b) -

Just to be difficult, isn't a sheet from a box of Puffs a member of set facial tissue without being a member of set Kleenex?

(I think this example is dodgy from the start because there's two separate usages of "Kleenex" afoot - one being a common use synonym for facial tissue, and one being a more specific and technically correct identifier of brand.)
Douglaschiaspod on September 17th, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC)
No, because a sheet of Puffs is still a facial tissue, neither a subcomponent nor superset of facial tissues but instead is a direct equivalent, fully synonymous.

That's the wonder of a proprietary eponym - the proper name and the general class are conflated and confounded. :)
Kburgunder on September 17th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC)
Sir, I confound thee; I am confounded!

chiaspod, I'm hereby grounding you from using any other words that start with con- in this thread which I have to look up. GRiN You will have to intuit which ones constitute contextual comprehension.

Confound I know from context, but couldn't define to someone else to safe my life, and so:

1 a archaic : to bring to ruin : destroy
   b: baffle , frustrate <conferences…are not for accomplishment but to confound knavish tricks — J. K. Galbraith>
2 obsolete : consume , waste
3 a: to put to shame : discomfit <a performance that confounded the critics>
   b: refute <sought to confound his arguments>
4: damn
5: to throw (a person) into confusion or perplexity
6 a: to fail to discern differences between : mix up
   b: to increase the confusion of

1 a: to bring together : fuse
   b: confuse
2: to combine (as two readings of a text) into a composite whole

(Actually, I just wrote this whole response because I couldn't resist the lovely alliteration nor the cadence of sentence #1 O:> )

Edited at 2008-09-17 04:59 pm (UTC)
Douglaschiaspod on September 17th, 2008 04:45 pm (UTC)
Also, the very important thing to remember is that the definitions of synecdoche and metonymy are highly contextual. I'm not sure if anyone reading this who's already confused by what synecdoche means understand that.

"I bought some wheels at Tire King to put on my car." Neither synecdoche nor metonymy.

"I pulled up to the curb and shouted to her, 'Hey, check out my wheels!'" Unless I'm focusing the spotlight on my Bridgestones, that's actually a case of synecdoche. (wheels are an essential subcomponent of automobiles)

"The financial institutions were collapsing, but the wheels of industry grind on." Wheels there? That's metonymy. Wheels are neither a subcomponent nor superset of industry; it's just a metaphor.

interit: foamy pills to cure the deatha_muse_d on September 16th, 2008 09:20 pm (UTC)
"Bayer" is the brand, "aspirin" is the drug...
sculptruth on September 16th, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC)
Jesus, this conversation is full of fun. My point was people say "aspirin" in lieu of any painkiller.

Nonetheless, I'm not the one who is illustrating the term in any way that I claim to be accurate -- see the comments of others for more eloquent elaboration.
Douglaschiaspod on September 16th, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC)
Gwywnnydd and Savannarama are mostly correctly - though technically Coke, Kleenex, Xerox, etc. are proprietary eponyms, separating them from true eponyms.

Should I bring up "metonymy" just to mess with you more?
Kburgunder on September 16th, 2008 07:15 pm (UTC)
heh, yes, because it's come up to my increasing confusion, so I may as well seek clarity while we're on the subject ;>
Douglaschiaspod on September 16th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC)
Ok, synecdoche - did you watch the Olympics? Noticed how they said "The US has won 30 gold medal"? That's synecdoche - the US did not; they are using "The United States" (the whole, a nation unto itself) to represent the individual athletes.

Or are you familiar with the Lord's Prayer? The part about "give us this day our daily bread" - it's not referring to bread specifically, but instead is using a subcomponent (bread) to refer to the greater category of "food/sustenance."

This is often confused with "metonymy" which is simply substitution of one word for another which it suggests. "The crown owns fifty thousand acres of land." "He's a man of the cloth." "Let's go have a drink." The major, glaring difference is that a crown is neither a subset nor superset of being a king/queen; cloth itself is not inherently a component nor result of being a religious leader, and a drink is not essentially limited to or required by a bar experience.
tenshiemi on September 16th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
It all makes sense now =D Thanks!
sculptruth on September 16th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
That was well laid out, thank you! I bow to your superior word skills :)
Kburgunder on September 16th, 2008 07:49 pm (UTC)

So, "Check out my wheels!" referring to a car, this is metonymy?

(Is "wheels" here a "metonym"?)
Kburgunder on September 16th, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
Upon re-reading, I think I'm still confused. This is one of those times where my semantic-looseness leaves me kind of lost and confused. I think of the crown as a subset of the symbolism (that might be the exactly precise word but I hope you will understand it in context) that is the king and queen, and I have no idea how to separate that from the king and queen. I mean, how do you know a man and a woman are a king and a queen except through those symbols of state?

(Anonymous) on September 16th, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
If Queen Elizabeth isn't wearing her crown, is she still queen? If I sneak into Buckingham Palace and put the crown on my head, does that make me king of England? While they are symbols - very closely tied symbols - they are not essential to the definition of royalty, they are not a subcomponent of royalty, and they are not a superset of royalty.
Kburgunder on September 16th, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC)
Heh. I just looked up Monarchy on wikipedia and now I'm so hopelessly lost on the point of "What defines royalty?" that I think I'm going to eat lunch and scowl!

Why can't everything be black and white? I'm an engineer, damn it.

Head noise:
The king is the guy wearing the crown.
If you take off his crown, he's still the king. If I wear his crown, I'm not the king.
So the king is the oldest son of the previous king and queen.
Not necessarily...

Douglaschiaspod on September 16th, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
You're going to hate me.

"wheels" in this example is an example of synecdoche - "wheels" are an inherent component to "automobile."

interit: Ixia_muse_d on September 16th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
bellabellanorth on September 17th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
Being a brand name, I don't think Kleenex is a good example. But those folks who ask for aspirin when they want any OTC pain reliever (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen)? That's an example of synecdoche.