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We have already pointed out the peculiarities of nominal meaning. The interplay between the logical and nominal meanings of a word is called antоnomasia. As in other stylistic devices based on the interaction of lexical meanings, the two kinds of meanings must be realized in the word simultaneously. If only one meaning is materialized in the context, there is no stylistic device, as in hooligan, boycott and other examples given earlier. Here are some examples of genuine antonomasia.

" Among the herd of journals which are published in the States, there are some, the reader scarcely need be told, of character and credit. From personal intercourse with accomplished gentlemen connected with publications of this class, I have derived both pleasure and profit. But the name of these is Few, and of the other Legion, and the influence of the good is powerless to counteract the mortal poison of the bad. (Dickens)

The use of the word name made the author write the words 'Few', and 'Legion' with capital letters. It is very important to note that this device is mainly realized in the written language, because generally capital letters are the only signals to denote the presence of the stylistic device. The same can also be observed in the following example from Byron's. " Don Juan":

" Society is now one polished horde,

Form'd of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored."

In these two examples of the use of antonomasia the nominal meaning is hardly perceived, the logical meaning of the words few, legion, bores, bored being too strong. But there is another point that should be mentioned. Most proper names are built on some law of analogy. Many of them end in -son (as Johnson) or -er (Fletcher). We easily recognize such words


as Smith, White, Brown, Green, Fowler and others as proper names. But such names as Miss Blue-Eyes (Carter Brown) or Scrooge or Mr. Zero may be called token or telling names. They give information to the reader about the bearer of the name. In this connection it is interesting to recall the well-known remark by Karl Marx, who said that we do not know anything about a man if we only know that he is called Jacob. The nominal meaning is not intended to give any information about the person. It only serves the purpose of identification. Proper names, i.e. the words with nominal meaning, can etymologically, in the majority of cases, be traced to some quality, property or trait of a person, or to his occupation. But this etymological meaning may be forgotten and the word be understood as a proper name and nothing else. It is not so with antonomasia. Antonomasia is intended to point out the leading, most characteristic feature of a person or event, at the same time pinning this 1eading trait as я proper name to the person or event concerned. In fact, antonomasia is a revival of the initial stage in naming individuals.

Antonomasia may be likened to the epithet in essence if not in form. It categorizes the person and thus simultaneously indicates both the general and the particular.

Antonomasia is a much favoured device in the belles-lettres style. In an article " What's in a name? ", Mr. R. Davis says: " In deciding on names for his characters, an author has an unfair advantage over other parents. He knows so much better how his child will turn out. When Saul Bellow named Augie March, he had already conceived a hero restlessly on the move, marching ahead with august ideas of himself. Henry James saw in Adam Verver of " The Golden Bowl" a self-made American, sprung from the soil, full of verve and zest for life. In choosing names like 'Murdstone', '.Scrooge', and 'Gradgrind; ' Dickens was being even more obvious." l

In Russian literature this device is employed by many of our classic writers. It will suffice to mention such names as Vralman, Molchalin, Korobochka and Sobakevich to illustrate this efficient device for characterizing literary heroes, a device which is now falling out of use. These Russian names are also coined on the analogy of generally acknowledged models for proper names, with endings in -man, -in, -vich.

An interesting literary device to emphasize token names is employed by Byron in his " Don Juan" where the name is followed or preceded by an explanatory remark, as in the following:

" Sir John Pottledeep, the mighty drinker."

" There was the sage Miss Reading."

" And the two fair co-heiresses Giltbedding."

" There was Dick Dubious, the metaphysician,

Who loved philosophy and a good dinner;

Angle, the soi-disant mathematician;

Sir Henry Silvercup, the great race-winner. "



1 The New York Times Book Review, Nov. 13, 1966.

The explanatory words, as it were, revive the logical meaning of the proper names, thus making more apparent the interplay of logical and nominal meanings.

The use of antonomasia is now not confined to the belles-lettres style. It is often found in publicistic style, that is, in magazine and newspaper articles, in essays and also in military language. The following are examples:

" I say this to our American friends. Mr. Facing-Both-Ways does not get very far in this world." (The Times)

" I suspect that the Noes and Don't Knows would far outnumber the Yesses." (The Spectator)

So far we have dealt with a variety of antonomasia in which common words with obvious logical meaning are given nominal meaning without losing their primary, basic significance. But antonomasia can also make a word which now has a basic nominal meaning acquire a generic signification, thus supplying the word with an additional logical meaning. The latter can only be deciphered if the events connected with a certain place mentioned or with a conspicuous feature of a person are well known. Thus, the word Dunkirk now means 'the evacuation of troops under heavy bombardment before it is too late', Sedan means 'a complete defeat', Coventry —'the destruction of a city by air raids', a quizling now means 'a traitor who aids occupying enemy forces'.

The spelling of these words demonstrates the stages by which proper nouns acquire new, logical meanings: some of them are still spelt with capital letters (geographical names), others are already spelt with small letters showing that a new word with a primary logical meaning has already come into existence.

This variety of antonomasia is not so widely used as a stylistic device, most probably due to the nature of words with nominal meaning: they tell very little or even nothing about the bearer of the name.


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