1. misuse or strained use of words, as in a mixed metaphor, occurring either in error or for rhetorical effect.
Abūsiō (“abuse, misuse”) is the “pure” Latin word for “misuse of a word” in rhetoric; Latin catachrēsis is a direct borrowing from Greek katáchrēsis, which first meant “analogical extension of a term” (e.g., calling a joint of a grass or reed a “knee”). Katáchrēsis in Greek later acquired the sense “misuse of a word, misapplication of a word or phrase.” Hardly any two people agree on particular examples, one critic’s catachresis being another’s “striking” mixed metaphor. Catachresis entered English in the late 16th century.
“No sane wholesome colours were anywhere to be seen except in the green grass and leafage; but everywhere those hectic and prismatic variants of some diseased, underlying primary tone” …. Can colours ever be “sane,” “wholesome,” “hectic,” or“diseased”? This rhetorical device is known as catacresis, the deliberate abuse of language, such as mixed metaphors.”
- Roger Luckhurst, “Introduction,” The Classic Horror Stories, 2013