Catachresis (cat-a-KREE-siss): Figure of association in which a highly unusual or outlandish comparison is made between two things. This figure moves beyond a metaphor by degrees -- the language used for comparative purposes is strikingly at odds with conventional usage.

Ex: "You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment."  -- Jesse Owens

Further Examples

"Now I hear this year, more than usual, a kind of talk, apparently intended to make thinking citizens believe that there are few issues in this election, that the candidates are pretty much alike, and that it doesn’t even make much difference who is elected President. This talk, designed to blur the issues, started with that shotgun political romance between Nixon and Rockefeller."

-- Adlai Stevenson, 1960 Campaign address for John F. Kennedy

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"The President's decision yesterday, to set into motion the development of the hydrogen bomb, has placed us on a knife edge of history."

-- Henry M. Jackson

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Bond: "I was at a meeting recently and your name came up."

Mr. White: "I'm flattered London is still talking about me."

Bond: "It wasn't MI6."

Mr. White: "You're a kite...dancing in a hurricane, Mr. Bond."

-- delivered by Daniel Craig and Jesper Christensen (from the movie Spectre)


"I'm the producer of this show. If I didn't step up, you're nowhere. I put this thing together on a spit and polish."

-- delivered by Dustin Hoffman (from the movie Wag the Dog)

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"There she stood on stage for all to see, showing off like the greedy songbird she was."

-- delivered by F. Murray Abraham (from the movie Amadeus)

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"Where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership? We're here to ask: Where are McNamara, Rostow, Bundy, Kilpatrick, and so many others. Where are they now that we the men whom they sent off to war have returned? These are commanders who have deserted their troops and there is no more serious crime in the law of war. The Army says they never leave their wounded. The Marines say they never leave even their dead. These men have left all the casualties and retreated behind a pious shield of public rectitude."

-- John Kerry, Statement to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

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"Mr. Jensen feels we're too catastrophic in our thinking. I argued that television was a volatile industry in which success and failure were determined week by week. Mr. Jensen said he did not like volatile industries and suggested with a certain sinister silkiness that volatility in business usually reflected bad management."

-- delivered by Robert Duvall (from the movie Network)

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"Now the jet black shadow of our want and misery came upon us step by step with certain precision, day after day, month after month, and year after year."

-- Huey P. Long, Saint Vitus Dance Government

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"C'mon, meat. You're not going to hit 'cause you're startin' to think about it already. C'mon, rook. Show us that million dollar arm 'cause I gotta, oh, I gotta good idea about that five cent head of yours."

-- delivered by Kevin Costner (from the movie Bull Durham)

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"The technology that we're going to speak of here today has no way to sequester it in one locale. It travels. Everything we know is known anywhere else. It is no longer possible to sequester an idea. It's no longer possible to ban a book. It's no longer possible to think of the Internet as anything else than Radio Free Europe on steroids."

-- Dan Geer, Opening Statement to Congress on Computer Espionage and Encryption


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Cindy Margolis: "I don't know what to do."  [to call or not to call Howard Lederer's bet]

Phil Laak: "It's never easy. Poker's...a landscape of probabilistic pain."

Howard Lederer: [is entertained]

Announcer: "Another 'Laakism' I'll have to look up."

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"I recently listened to a thoughtful big city [police] chief express his frustration with [the] lack of reliable data. He said he didn't know whether the Ferguson police shot one person a week, one a year, or one a century, and that in the absence of good data (quote), 'all we get are ideological thunderbolts, when what we need are ideological agnostics who use information to try to solve problems.' He's right."

-- James B. Comey, Address on Race and Law Enforcement

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"This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint as a black American, as far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. -- U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree."

-- Justice Clarence Thomas, Statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee

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"This instrument [TV] can teach; it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it's nothing but wires and lights in a box."

-- Edward R. Murrow, RTNDA After-Dinner Address

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Rhetorical Figures in Sound

Online Speech Bank

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American Rhetoric.
Created by Michael E. Eidenmuller.
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