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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