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Remember last week’s “facinorous?”  If you will recall, I unearthed the following sentence that used the word.  Which would have been great except the words used to describe it were completely new to me!  As a matter of fact, I thought one of them was a typo – but no!  Here is that sentence, the new words highlighted:

When shall … the catachrestical reasonings of facinorous aristocrats be dispanded?” 

OK, I looked up catechrestical and got this very helpful definition:

catachrestical – constituting or characterized by or given to catachresis; catachrestic.  Gee – thanks for that!

This one is more helpful, using the noun form:

cat·a·chre·sis  (kt-krss)
n. pl. cat·a·chre·ses (-sz)

1. The misapplication of a word or phrase, as the use of blatant to mean “flagrant.”

2. The use of a strained figure of speech, such as a mixed metaphor.

Further definition yielded:

catachresis – strained or paradoxical use of words either in error (as `blatant’ to mean `flagrant’) or deliberately (as in a mixed metaphor: `blind mouths’);

rhetorical device – a use of language that creates a literary effect (but often without regard for literal significance)

When I saw “mixed metaphor,” I couldn’t resist giving you some of my favorite examples:

“That’s awfully thin gruel for the right-wing to hang their hats on.”  (MSNBC, Sep. 3, 2009)

“Her saucer-eyes narrow to a gimlet stare and she lets Mr. Clarke have it with both barrels.”  (Anne McElvoy, London Evening Standard, Sep. 9, 2009)

“I conclude that the city’s proposal to skim the frosting, pocket the cake, and avoid paying the fair, reasonable, and affordable value of the meal is a hound that will not hunt.”  (a labor arbitrator, quoted by the Boston Globe, May 8, 2010)”

‘Obviously, it’s been a very difficult two days for us,’ Nelson said. ‘We kind of saw the writing on the wall Friday night. It’s just apples versus oranges, and it’s not a level playing field by any means.'”  (“Seabury’s Football Team Done for the Season.” Lawrence Journal-World, Sep. 22, 2009)

“The committee was tired of stoking public outrage with fortnightly gobbets of scandal. It decided to publish everything it had left, warts and all. Now everyone is tarred with the same ugly brush, and the myth that forever simmers in the public consciousness–that the House shelters 435 parasitic, fat-cat deadbeats–has received another shot of adrenalin.”(Washington Post, 1992)

“I knew enough to realize that the alligators were in the swamp and that it was time to circle the wagons.” (attributed to Rush Limbaugh)

How catachrestical can you get?

Now we come to dispanded.  I thought for sure it was supposed to be disbanded. I was disavowed of that supposition!  Here is the first definition I found – again for the noun form – and again very helpful:

Dis`pan´sion – n. act of dispanding or the state of dispandment.

Uh huh.  A little more research – this time in the 1913 edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Dis`pand´ v. t. – to spread out, to expand

Now that we are so smart, let’s translate Mr. or Ms. G. Walker’s sentence from the year 1799 into something the less educated will understand:

“When shall the atrociously wicked aristocrats’ egregious use of mixed metaphors be expanded?”  What an awful and convoluted sentence (both G. Walker’s and mine)!  First of all, I’m wondering if the author really understood the meaning of dispanded?  Because instead of demanding to know when aristocrats will quit such facinorous use of mixed metaphors, s/he apparently wants them spread around!

Maybe that was what was intended, because judging by the examples above, catachresis can be awfully funny!

BTW – WordPress does not know either of the words for today.  Should we mount a protest?

For today, you are now smart enough. . .

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