Monday, February 25, 2008

He was a detective and he looked it -- a gumshoe


gumshoe (GUM-shoo) noun
1. A detective.
2. A rubber overshoe.

[The word is an allusion to the quiet snooping that a detective is supposed to do. Wearing rubber shoes, one can move around without making much noise.]

The word is an example of the figure of speech called synecdoche, in which a part is used for the whole or vice versa. Other examples are the use of the word crown to refer to a king or a hand to refer to a farm worker.

Today's word in Visual Thesaurus.

"So far, the entertainment industry's approach to peer-to-peer file sharing has been to hire gumshoes to bang on teenagers' doors at midnight and haul them off to court -- an act akin to trying to beat back a tsunami with a tennis racquet."
-- Staunching a Tide of Piracy; Sydney Morning Herald (Australia); May 18, 2006.

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