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What's in a Name: Antonomasia in Mr. Perfectly Fine


The Basics

In Mr. Perfectly Fine, Taylor Swift puts a former partner on blast for a “change of heart” that transformed him from “Mr. Here to Stay” to “Mr. Leaves Me All Alone.” Swift is particularly bitter about his attitude towards the breakup and how it contrasts with her own: he is “Mr. Perfectly Fine” and she is “Ms. Misery.”


Literary Device: Antonomasia

Antonomasia is a literary device in which an author replaces a person’s proper name with an epithet. Common examples include The Windy City for Chicago and the Dark Knight for Batman. Each of these epithets uses the act of naming something as an opportunity to comment on its character – corrupt politicians in Chicago and the shadowy nature of Batman.


In Mr. Perfectly Fine, Swift refers to her former partner 28 times, taking each as an opportunity to replace his name with a jab at his character. For example, she refers to him as “Mr. Casually Cruel,” “Mr. Everything Revolves Around You” and “Mr. Insincere Apology.”


Analysis

Taylor Swift has commented on the significance of names throughout Fearless.* Most obviously, Hey Stephen is an extended meditation on the significance of the name Stephen and how the name connects to the individual bearing it. Names also play an important role in Untouchable, where “a million little stars [spell] out your name,” Superstar where “the girls in the front row scream your name, Come in With the Rain where Swift “watched you so long, screamed your name” and The Way I Loved You where “It’s 2AM and I’m cursing your name.” Names have become an important way for Swift to call out the significance of a particular person or to get their attention. Forgetting or being unable to name someone is also a trope throughout the album. In The Best Day, Swift has such a good time with her parents that she forgets the name of the people who were mean to her. In Come in With the Rain she is too tired tonight to call out your name. In Mr. Perfectly Fine, Swift bemoans that Mr. Perfectly Fine “forgets he even heard my name.” For Swift, forgetting someone’s name means a relationship is over or close to ending.


In the same way that naming someone gives them a particular significance, forgetting their name nullifies that significance. Swift has clearly not forgotten Mr. Perfectly Fine yet, but she claims power for herself by replacing his name with twenty-eight sick burns – tying his identity to his character flaws every time anyone listens to this song.


*Swift used the word name zero times in her debut album and twenty times in Fearless


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