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Catachresis

 

Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Catachresis

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Catachresis is a the use of word or a figure of speech incorrectly, breaking the rules of usage.

Example

Her laughing feet fell overboard with amazement.

He looked at the price and his pockets ran dry.

She grabbed the bull by the horns of the dilemma.

He was as happy as a corpse.

Discussion

When we listen to normal speech we do not think about how correct it is. However, when something is said that breaks the rules of language it is immediately clear and so grabs our attention.

Catachresis can be used in a number of ways, for example:

  • Using a word outside its normal context, where it appears wrong.
  • Creating a contradiction or paradox.
  • Substituting one language element for another.
  • Using mixed metaphor.
  • Using a simile that does not work.

It is common in literature where it may be used for alarming effect, for example 'I will speak daggers to her' - Hamlet.

Catachresis is related to Malapropism, where a word that sounds similar is used (often with comic effect).

Catachresis comes from the Greek word meaning 'the wrong use of a word'.

The Latin name for catachresis is Abusio.

Classification: Distortion

See also

Attention principle, Confusion principle, Metonymy

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