Metalepsis

From Academic Kids

Metalepsis is a figure of speech in which one thing is referenced by a something else which is only remotely associated with it. Often the association works through a different figure of speech, or through a chain of cause-and-effect. Oftentimes metalepsis refers to the combination of several figures of speech into an altogether new one.

Examples:

"I've got to go catch the worm tomorrow morning." 'The early bird catches the worm' is a common maxim in english, advocating getting an early start on the day to achieve success. The subject, by referencing this maxim, is comparing herself to the bird. Therefore, the subject is conveying that s/he wishes to awaken early tomorrow in order to achieve success.

He's a lead foot.

We imagine a foot to be made of lead. We know lead is heavy. We imagine a heavy foot would press down on the accelerator all the time. Hence, he drives fast.

We only get the meaning by a) metaphorically transferring heaviness from lead to feet b) seeing that a heavy foot causes fast driving.

See also: catachresis.

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