Sunday, March 01, 2009

Metonymy angle of the transportation stimulus battle between Seattle and the Leg

Olympia to Seattle: Drop Dead
More metonmy:
This week's dustup between Seattle and Olympia over how to spend $341 million in federal stimulus money...
The problem with this specific metonymic device is that is blurs out the reality of the situation. It makes the state legislature, an organization of locally elected (and proportionate to population) representatives into "Olympia," an other.

Its a very short line of logic from othering state government to a Gov. Bobby Jindal-type speech where government can never solve any problems and wrecks everything it touches.

It would be much different to say: "Our State Legislature to Seattle: Drop Dead" or "this week's dustup between Seattle and the state legislature..."

An aside: I understand metonymy, probably more than most people should. See my somewhat depressingly long archive on this particular topic, please. I understand the purpose of using a specific term for a broad topic, like "press" for the "news media," especially in a time when there are fewer and fewer "presses" in the "news media."

But, the use of Olympia for "state government" or "state legislature" is a hugely inaccurate and damaging metonymy, because it misstates the nature of our government. Because we elect our representatives from proportional districts, most of the people who serve in the state legislature come from the urban Puget Sound (not unlike the makeup of the Senate Transportation Committee), so its also the urban Puget Sound telling Seattle to "drop dead."

Back to the main point: I don't have a problem with language short cuts. I have a problem with language short cuts that are dangerous.

And, especially when my town is made the label for the scapegoat. At least Josh Feit stop saying "Oly."


Anonymous said...

I saw that PI article and immediately thought of you. :)

Anonymous said...

I love that you are battling the misuse of "Olympia" as a slur. I had no idea that sort of chicanery had a name until now. You are such a smart guy. Nice work.

Emmett said...

Rhenda, I wish I could take credit with putting a name to my obsession, but that was Jim.