Thursday, November 03, 2005


This is the only word of the day that I liked. It moved me so much that I submitted a word to urban I'll let you know what the word is if it gets accepted--it's sort of a social experiment that I'm trying out.

Regardless, here is the word that I liked:

From Merriam-Webster Online

catachresis • \kat-uh-KREE-sis\

1 : use of the wrong word for the context2 : use of a forced and especially paradoxical figure of speech

Example sentence:The paper printed a correction for the previous day's catachresis: dubbing a local artist-philanthropist a "socialist" when they meant "socialite."
Did you know?As you might have guessed, "catachresis" is a word favored by grammarians. It can be employed as a fancy label of disparagement for whatever uses the grammarian finds unacceptable. Thus could Henry Fowler, in the 1920s, call "mutual" in "our mutual friend" a catachresis. (Fowler preferred "common," but "mutual" does have an established sense which is correct in that context.) More often, "catachresis" is used for an unintentional misuse and is very close in meaning to "malapropism," which usually refers to an unintentionally humorous misuse of a word. "Catachresis" has been used to describe (or decry) misuses of words since at least 1550. The word comes to us by way of Latin from the Greek noun "katachrēsis," which means "misuse."


At 10:30 AM, Blogger truevyne said...

I'm begging you not to introduce my husband to this word, catachresis. If you do, he'll have a $10 word to hang over my head every time I incorrectly substitute a word. My latest misuse- speaking to a friend about a meeting place, "We'll get there synonomously." My clever dh chimes in, "Dear, you'll mean the same thing when you get there? Or perhaps you meant simultaneously?"

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Pink Cupcake said...

Oooh, I love this word! I always feel so virtuous when I read your blog, not only is it fun, but I learn tons too. :)

Intrigued by your submission to the urban dictionary - don't forget to let us know if it's accepted!

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Piece of Work said...

I love this word, too. Thanks for sharing, Roxie!

At 2:31 PM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

truevyne: I violate word use rules all of the time so don't sweat it. When my husband busts me for using the wrong word, I counter with "Did you know what I meant?" To which he answers, "yes". Then I say, "Well, isn't that the purpose of language--for communicating ideas? If you understood me, then I technically used language for it's correct purpose."

POW and Pink Cupcake: You guys are so nice. Thanks:)

By then end, he has stopped listening so I get the last word in.

At 5:05 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

Huh. Sounds like malapropism. I think I prefer malaprop. But good to know!

At 12:06 AM, Blogger 21st Century Mom said...

Excellent word! I love words, too. One of my favorites is antonomasia which is a brand name or proper name that gets used as the common name for something general. They used to be more rare than they are now. I think it has something to do with the early bird getting market share or something.

"googling" is the most recent example. "Kleenex" and "Xerox" are also good examples.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger trisha said...


Thank you sooo much for this post, Rox. My mom is Queen Catachresis. Though, we usually just tell her she is an idiot.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger BotanicalGirl said...

Wow, cool word! I'm a big nerd, so I'm fond of english as well as science.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger shrinkykitten said...

I'm a huge fan of the word malaprop. Mrs Malaprop (from the play "The rivals") is one of the best characters ever.

I use words incorrectly too -- well, I like to create my own words or forms of words. I think of this as being related to my creative writing training (poetry) and my desire to create more precision in the language than there is currently.

So, bottomw line, just come up with an extremely erudite reason for your catachresis, aka malapropisms, and all will stop off!

At 1:26 PM, Blogger sue said...

Okay... I feel dumb now. ::slinking off to the next post::

At 11:20 AM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

Slinking off would be dumb. Don't you know the only reason for talking smart is to sound smart to others? If the people who think we're smart leave, then what's the point? You're supposed to hang around the people you think are smart, then take the bad puns to where they're most desperately needed.


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