Baz, I hasten to add, is only nine. If he were 19, he would hardly answer like that - unless he wanted to crack a particularly pathetic joke. The bench here means the ‘magistrates’. Magistrates used to sit along a bench, when they were in court, and over the years the name of the seat came to be used for those sitting on it.
Language of this kind is called metonymy
- a term from Greek, meaning ‘name change’. It’s a figure of speech where the name of a distinctive characteristic of a thing is used instead of the name of the thing itself. The bench
is a metonym
, as is the crown
, meaning the king or queen. Nicknames are often metonyms, too. If you have a teacher with a long beard, for instance, you might call him the beard.
And next time someone calls you big ears
or four eyes
, take comfort from the fact that you’ve been labelled with a metonym.