chapter  2
22 Pages

Catachresis—A Metaphor or a Figure in Its Own Right?: Elżbieta Chrzanowska-Kluczewska


Catachresis has been a fi gure of dubious status ever since it was described in classical rhetoric as an instance of semantic abuse. It has also been a neglected trope, with few works entirely devoted to it alone. Rather, the term catachresis has appeared en passant, scattered across the vast literature on poetics and rhetoric. And yet, catachresis defi nitely deserves a more thorough refl ection, for it discloses the fuzziness of traditional stylistic taxonomies and, even more conspicuously, showcases the need to consider stylistic fi gures according to their functional scope within the text. For this reason I reject the unclear traditional taxonomy of fi gures into fi gurae elocutionis (fi gures of language, fi gures of expression) and fi gurae sententiae (fi gures of thought) (cf. Lausberg 2002: 345-46, §602-4; 417, §755-57); I do so not only in consideration of a frequently disputed borderline between the two but for more serious methodological reasons. Contrary to the so-called rhetorical theory of tropes with its roots in antiquity, I believe that nothing exists in language that would not have existed previously in the mind. Consequently, I assume all fi gures to be primarily conceptual constructs and indispensable instruments of our cognition, for which verbalization is only a secondary realization. In this I follow the line of thinking best represented by George Lakoff, Mark Johnson and Mark Turner; however, I treat metaphor not as the key pattern of our conceptualizations but as one of several fi gures that are responsible for what I would like to call the ‘fi gurative and rhetorical bent’ of the human mind.