To call a spade a spade

In primary school I was considered to be a backward scholar who exhibited ‘no pace’ to learning. In particular I struggled with language and routinely talked about myself in the second and third person.  However, Mrs Beaton my Secondary School English teacher, recognised something in me and set about helping me express my natural creativity in some form of language. Later, as a junior doctor, I met and fell in love with Sian. It is Sian, my beautiful wife, who has helped me more than any other in developing my understanding and use of language.

I recently came across this passage in MAYFLIES by Andrew O’Hagan. I understood that metonymy was a figure of speech in which a thing is referred to by the name of something closely associated with that thing:However I needed to look up the definition of synechdoche:

Synecdoche: a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa.

Curious about the origins of this figure of speech I turned to, as I regularly do, the archives. One of the earliest public mentions of syencdoche  that I came across was in this 1847 advertisement:

Curious about the Lecturer, Mr H B B Paull, I searched for details on him . All that I could establish was through fragmentary references. Henry Hugh Beam Paull, a graduate of Oxford, married young, had ‘several unsettled careers’ and was twice registered bankrupt before he entered the Ministry. He and his wife had no children and lived the last few decades of their life apart.

H B B Paull is not remembered. No stories about him survive. Not even fairy tales.

However Susanna, his wife, widely known as ‘Mrs H B B Paull’ had written her way wide into the consciousness of the children of our kingdom. Her first book The Doctor’s Vision: An Allegory was a fairy tale that mocked the [then most popular] doctrine of Phrenology. Mrs H B B Paull then went on to write many children’s books, and translated the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimm brothers. 

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