The Library Basement
Reading under ground

I pledge allegiance to the metonym and to its referent

I was contemplating the US Pledge of Allegiance today and was struck by something odd. The beginning:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America . . .

It is silly to pledge allegiance to a flag, so this is an obvious metonymy for the United States government. But then it continues:

. . . and to the Republic for which it stands . . .

Wait, what? I'm pledging allegiance to the metonym, and to its referent? This makes no sense. I checked the revision history of the pledge, and this twofold distinction has been present since the beginning. Why doesn't this redundancy sound strange to the hundreds of millions who have recited the pledge? Or is there really a distinction in meaning between the flag and the republic for which it stands that I am missing?

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Category: language Tags: humor

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