Metonymy in the Book of Mormon
A suggestion by Gordon Thomasson led to a May 3 seminar where 11 F.A.R.M.S. collaborators examined another subtle stylistic feature in the Book of Mormon. Metonymy is the practice of giving a person or place a name whose meaning reflects an event or trait associated with that person or place. A closely related practice sees a person's name become symbolic of some phenomenon. An example of metonymy is in 1 Sam. 25 where a man is said to have been named Nabal, "fool," because he refused to aid David and his supporters. The second pattern is shown in the statement "to be a Judas" and in the common reference to New York as "Babylon on the Hudson."
Thomasson noted particularly that the name Zeezrom, given to one who tried to bribe Alma and Amulek with silver money (Alma 11:22), can be read in Hebrew as "the ezrom (money)" or perhaps "the one with money," since an ezrom was a Nephite measure of silver (Alma 11:22). In another example, Isabel, the harlot of Siron visited by Corianton (Alma 39:3), may be related in moral concept to Jezebel of the Old Testament (2 Kings 9:22), because of the essentially similar names they bore.
The group's discussion both questioned and supported a wide range of detail about several suggested metonymic name associations in the Book of Mormon. Other aspects of naming were spun off, so the end result was an array of challenging possibilities for further research. John Tvedtnes, Benjamin Urrutia, Robert Smith, Blake Ostler, John Robertson, and others brought varied language and linguistic resources to the discussion, which ranged into topics such as nicknaming, taboo names, punning, and the significance of writing systems for the reading of names.
A strong consensus emerged that a concerted research thrust should be mounted to explore the topic further. Moreover, the vigor of this seminar workshop suggested that other promising subjects deserve treatment in similar format.