One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A form of synecdoche in which two (or in early use sometimes more) contrasting or complementary parts are made to represent the whole; an instance of this.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in George Puttenham (1529–?1591), writer and literary critic. From ancient Greek μερισμός division (in use as a rhetorical term already in ancient Greek) from the stem of μερίζειν to divide (from μέρος part (or perhaps μερίς part: see mero- and note at that entry) + -ίζειν) + -ισμός. Compare post-classical Latin merismos (isolated example in a 3rd-cent. grammarian; Greek μερισμός also occurs in classical Latin and post-classical Latin rhetorical writers).
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