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I am looking at metonyms and I have two examples I am interested in, but I am not sure what they stand for.

  1. The bookshop holds over 1 million titles.

  2. Since Beijing, the Olympics have got even more popular.

I am confused as to why Beijing is considered a metonym. What does it stand for in this sentence?

Also, what does "titles" stand for?

In the semantics book I am reading, the author gave an example:

Moscow has rejected NATO demands.

he says that ‘Moscow’ stands for the Russian government – a PLACE FOR INSTITUTION metonymy. Can the same be true for "titles" and "Beijing." what do they stand for?

3 Answers 3

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The word "titles" here is being used to mean books, which could be considered an instance of synecdoche (a type of metonymy where a part of a thing stands for the whole of the thing—a title is, after all, only part of a book).

I would say in this case, though, it's a bit odd to analyze it that way, because "titles" doesn't just mean "books": it means "distinct types of books", or "books with distinct titles". In other words, "one million titles" presumably means there are over a million differently-titled books there, not just a million copies of a single title.

Similarly, "Beijing" here is used to mean "the 2008 Olympic Summer Games that were held in Beijing", rather than "the city of Beijing" itself. "Since" requires an event or time, not a place, so the place name must be standing in for an event or time attached to that place.

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  • Thank you! This makes sense. So if Beijing isn't the name of the city, can we use other places like we are using Beijing here? or is this unique for Beijing?
    – Sally
    Apr 3 at 19:12
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    "can we use other places like we are using Beijing here?" -- yes, provided it's clear that you're referring to an event that happened in that location, not the location itself. For example: "since Fukushima, public concern about the safety of Nuclear power has increased". In this example, "Fukushima" refers not to the place, but to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant incident (of March 2011). Apr 4 at 13:58
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    I think "holds ... titles" is a metonym because a title isn't something you can physically hold; it must stand for something less abstract. A more obvious example would be "the bookshop stocks hundreds of authors" - the authors aren't personally in the shop, being offered for sale, only their books are. So "authors" is being used as a metonym for "books written by distinct authors".
    – IMSoP
    Apr 4 at 14:25
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    @Sally One has to take care that the event that you’re associating with the place is clearly associated with the place for the audience. For example, Beijing is associated with a lot of things, being one of the largest and oldest cities on Earth—if the sentence weren’t clearly discussing the Olympics, it would be unclear (and even then, it’s still unclear since it could be the 2008 Summer Olympics or the 2022 Winter Olympics, though Janus is correct that 2008 is far more likely). On the other hand, Fukushima is really only associated with the nuclear incident for most of the world.
    – KRyan
    Apr 4 at 14:40
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Beijing: PLACE FOR TIME

titles: In fact, I don't see metonymy here, titles is just the standard jargon for "kinds of books" (the bookshop can hold more than one copy of a certain title, so just counting books could give a wrong number)

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  • Thank you! This makes sense. So if Beijing isn't the name of the city, can we use other places like we are using Beijing here? or is this unique for Beijing? –
    – Sally
    Apr 3 at 19:28
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    It is not unique for Beijing; but it relies on the reader being able to recognise what event in Beijing is being referred to. The fact that the Olympics occurs in the same sentence makes it pretty clear, so after Athens/London/Atlanta ... the Olympics ... would work just as well. But if you started a conversation with after Beijing, I got more worried, it might not be obvious that you were talking about the Olympics.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 3 at 22:40
  • "Kinds of books" to me seems like it would include many different titles, e.g. "self-help books" Apr 4 at 19:08
  • I'm confused. Are you saying book shop owners uses "titles" and "genres" interchangeably? Apr 5 at 20:07
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Titles mean books with different titles. Beijing means the event.

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