Anthimeria: Definition and Examples

Anthimeria, derived from the Greek word "anti-meros," meaning "one part for another," is a rhetorical device characterized by the substitution of one part of speech with another, often transforming a noun into a verb or vice versa. This linguistic phenomenon enriches language by adapting words to new grammatical forms and expressions.

Types of Anthimeria

Anthimeria comes in two main types:

  • Temporary Anthimeria: These are trendy usages that may not become permanent fixtures in the language. For example, "hashtagging" is a temporary anthimeria that has emerged recently.
  • Permanent Anthimeria: This type becomes a lasting part of the language. Words like "texting" and "typing" have permanently adopted new grammatical shapes.

Examples of Anthimeria in Literature

Example #1: Under the Greenwood Tree (by Thomas Hardy)

“The parishioners about here,” continued Mrs. Day, not looking at any living being, but snatching up the brown delf tea-things, “are the laziest, gossipest, poachest, jailest set of any ever I came among.
And they’ll talk about my teapot and tea-things next, I suppose!”

Thomas Hardy showcases his creativity by inventing words like "gossipest," "poachest," and "jailest" through anthimeria, providing unique expressions to describe his characters.

Example #2: Letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald (by Thomas Wolfe)

“Flaubert me no Flauberts. Bovary me no Bovarys. Zola me no Zolas. And exuberance me no exuberances.
Leave this stuff for those who huckster in it and give me, I pray you, the benefits of your fine intelligence and your high creative faculties, all of which I so genuinely and profoundly admire.”

This passage transforms the names of famous authors into plural forms, illustrating anthimeria as a tool for creative expression.

Example #3: In the Marvelous Dimension (by Kate Daniels)

“Until then, I’d never liked
petunias, their heavy stems,
the peculiar spittooning sound
of their name. Now I loved
a petunia for all it was worth
—a purplish blue bloom
waving in a red clay pot outside
an office window.”

Kate Daniels employs anthimeria to convert the noun "spittoon" into the verb "spittooning," creating a vivid and imaginative description.

Example #4: More Die of Heartbreak (by Saul Bellow)

“I’ve often got the kid in my mind’s eye.
She’s a dolichocephalic Trachtenberg, with her daddy’s narrow face and Jesusy look.”

In this example, the adjective "Jesus" is transformed into the inventive adjective "Jesusy" through anthimeria, adding depth to the description.

Example #5: Emma (by Jane Austen)

“Let me not suppose that she dares go about, Emma Woodhouse-ing me!”

Jane Austen uses anthimeria to create the verb "Woodhouse-ing" from the noun "Woodhouse," infusing the sentence with a unique expression.

Function of Anthimeria

  • Enriching Language: Anthimeria enhances language by allowing words to adapt to new grammatical forms, fostering linguistic diversity and creativity.
  • Creating Unique Expressions: Writers use anthimeria to introduce novel and imaginative ways of describing ideas, evoking thought-provoking imagery in their readers' minds.
  • Reflecting Cultural Changes: As language evolves with cultural shifts, anthimeria serves as a reflection of societal transformations and linguistic growth.
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