Pars pro toto

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Pars pro toto (/ˌpɑːrz pr ˈtt/,[1] Latin[ˈpars proː ˈtoːtoː]), Latin for '"a part (taken) for the whole"',[2] is a figure of speech where the name of a portion of an object, place, or concept is used or taken to represent its entirety. It is distinct from a merism, which is a reference to a whole by an enumeration of parts; metonymy, where an object, place, or concept is called by something or some place associated with it; or synecdoche, which can refer both to pars pro toto and its inverse: the whole representing a part.

In the context of language, pars pro toto means that something is named after a part or subset of it, or after a limited characteristic, which in itself is not necessarily representative of the whole. For example, "glasses" is a pars pro toto name for something that consists of more than literally just two pieces of glass (the frame, nosebridge, temples, etc. as well as the lenses). Pars pro toto usage is especially common in political geography, with examples including "Russia" or "Russians", used to refer to the entire former Russian Empire or former Soviet Union or its people; Holland for the Netherlands; and, particularly in languages other than English, using the translation of "England" in that language to refer to the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Among English-speakers, "Great Britain" or "Britain" is a common pars pro toto shorthand for the entire United Kingdom. Switzerland's name in German (Schweiz) comes from its central Canton of Schwyz. The Apostle Paul employs a pars pro toto designation when he refers to Jews as “circumcised” and Gentiles as “uncircumcised” (Gal. 2:7–8).[3]

The inverse of a pars pro toto is a totum pro parte, in which the whole is used to describe a part, such as the widespread use of "America" in place of "United States of America", "United States", or "U.S.";[4] as well as the use, in the United States, of "Western Hemisphere" to refer to the Americas. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, "Ulster" is often used (specifically by unionists) to refer to Northern Ireland, despite one-third of the province of Ulster forming part of the Republic of Ireland. The term synecdoche is used for both, as well as for similar metaphors, though in Greek it literally means "simultaneous understanding".

Geography[edit]

Certain place names are sometimes used as synecdoches to denote an area greater than that warranted by their strict meaning:

Other examples[edit]

Individual body parts are often colloquially used to refer to an entire body; examples include:

  • "skin" or "hide" ("save your skin" or "skin in the game" or "the teacher will have my hide")
  • "mouth" ("mouth to feed")
  • "head" ("head count")
  • "face" ("famous faces")
  • "hand" ("all hands on deck")
  • "hand" for a person, usually a woman, being considered as a marital partner, as in the phrase "he asked her father for her hand in marriage"[citation needed]
  • "eyeballs" (television audience)
  • "guts" (to "hate someone's guts")
  • "back", used to mean the entire human body in relation to clothing ("shirt off my back")
  • "back" or "neck", used to mean a person's entire self in relation to being bothered ("get off my back" or "we'll have the police on our necks")
  • "back" or "neck", used to mean a person's whole self or physical being or physical life, as in the sayings "to have someone's back" or "save one's neck"
  • "butt" or "ass", used to indicate a person's entire self or body ("get your butt on a plane" or "the boss fired my ass")

The names of affiliates or subdivisions of large corporations are sometimes used to refer to the entire corporation:

Other examples include an individual object being used to refer to a larger object or group of which it is a part:

  • "bread" for food in general, as in "my job puts bread in my children's mouths"
  • "pork bellies" for commodities to be traded
  • "head" for counting individual farm animals (e.g. "twelve head of cattle" for "twelve cows, bulls, etc.")
  • "Big Ben" for Elizabeth Tower
  • "motor" for automobile (as in the corporation General Motors or the word "Motors" used in the name of a car dealership)
    • similarly, "wheels" for automobile, "jet" for jet(-propelled) airplane, "sail" for sailing ship
  • "gun", used to refer to the shooter as well as his firearm (e.g., "he was a hired gun")

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "pars pro toto | Definition of pars pro toto in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  2. ^ "pars pro toto – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  3. ^ James L. Resseguie, Narrative Criticism of the New Testament: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 62.
  4. ^ Blair Arts Ltd. "Online Dictionary of Language Terminology (ODLT) s.v. totum pro parte". ODLT. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  5. ^ "Hindustan: Definition". Thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 2017-09-07.