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an·ton·o·ma·sia (ăn′tə-nə-mā′zhə)


  1. A fancy term from one of those new Guardian How To Present Your Creative Writing Classes masterclass, a term that possibly nobody else in the room understands, during a course that is presented by somebody you’ve never heard of and the class costs a small fortune (NB includes VAT, booking fee and refreshments) for six hours in a one-star hotel in Nuneaton. Where’s Nuneaton? Got an idea for a Guardian Masterclass Class? Simply download their pitch document, fill it in and email it to masterclasses.pitch@theguardian.com today!
  2. Antonomasia has nothing to do with someone called Anton or Antoin, does it? Or Thomasina either. OK, I’m guessing here.
  3. It’s a figure of speech then?
  4. A figure of fun? Pass.
  5. Antonomasia, antonomasia. Gimme a sec, I know this one. How about: the use of an epithet or title in place of a proper name, as in the Bard for Shakespeare;  the Iron Duke for Wellington; the Iron Chancellor for Bismark; the Iron Lady (51% on Rotten Tomatoes) for Margaret Thatcher; the Fab Four for the Beatles; Your Majesty or Your Highness for a particular sovereign; the Iron Curtain for that iron curtainy thing during the Cold War (yes, antonomasia can refer to places as well as people) (and to wars too?)
  6. Or maybe it’s the very opposite – using a proper name for an epithet: he’s a right little Napoleon / little Hitler, he’s a Casanova, she’s a Jackie Onassis (see pic above), a doubting Thomas… Actually I’m all mixed up now.
  7. It’s the use of a proper name to designate a member of a class (a Solomon for a wise ruler), or to express a general idea or to designate others sharing a particular characteristic (such as a fithy rich moneybags as a Rockefeller, a Denis O’Brien). What’s the difference between this and 6.?
  8. (Rhetoric) In general, the interplay between the logical and nominal meanings of a word. Now you’re going to ask me what “rhetoric” means and there’s me never done a creative writing course.
  9. In fiction, the practice of giving a character a proper name that defines or suggests a leading quality of said character (such as Dr Sawbone, Squire Ownsall, Mr Fancypants, Mr Right, Mr Wright, Johnny Moneybags).
  10. A popular handle/avatar on fan fiction websites, possibly as a reference to the daugher of King Archipiela and Queen Maguncia. Princess Antonomasia was brought up under the care and tutelage of a Countess Trifaldi (see Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes), which sounds like a much better handle if you ask me.
  11. Davy Jones’s locker. This was the famous wardrobe where a member of the Monkees pop combo kept his stage clothes.
  12. A refund for a course or workshop, such as for a How To Present Creative Writing Classes class. Please note: an antonomasia does not affect your statutory consumer rights.

[Latin, from Greek antonomazein, to name instead : anti-, instead of; see anti- + onomazein, to name (from onoma, name; see nō̆-men- in Indo-European roots), and all that other etymological rubbish you always ignore at the end of dictionary definitions, because – let’s face it – you’re only reading this blog because you’ve an exam tomorrow morning, aren’t you? Tell you what: just tell the Grammar Nazi that it’s a bit like a simile]