Catachresis

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Catachresis

 

in stylistics, a combination of lexically incompatible words that form a unique and meaningful whole (compare with oxymoron, a combination of words with contrasting and opposite meanings, such as in “a living corpse.”)

There are two types of catachresis: (1) that which comes into being naturally, through the development of the nominative means of a language, and which may be perceived at first as incorrect word usage (“white brownstone,” “to sail a steamship”); and (2) that which is created deliberately, for an intended effect (“black gold,” “when the crab whistles”). Catachresis can be either a verbal blunder (“let not the arms of the sharks of imperialism extend to us”), where the tropes are joined mechanically, or an illustration of great artistic skill:

But through the listless night the serpents of remorse

More shrewdly burn within me …

A. S. Pushkin

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As those examples have suggested, there are quite a few figures in our language that are simultaneously personifications and catachreses.
In other words: the catachreses of Marx and Freud--of the modern discourses of capital and desire respectively--find, as it were, their origin both in and as Puttenham's figure of abuse.
The medieval topos of the world-upside-down is expanded in a series of catachreses (one of Platonic antiquity, from the Symposium) which invent an eagle's view of the would curiously in accord with a scientific theory of energy transformations.
Miller's strategy is to pass through the mimetic mirror trailing a thread (a gift from his book's namesake) that marks the way out of the labyrinth of fleeting catachreses and reminds him, while there, that characters are only illusions cast up by the semiotic process.