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Vitamin Q: the book!

~ Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Catachresis is the term for when a word is used for something else it resembles metaphorically. Here are some examples:

1 The French word for mackerel is also used to mean pimp
2 In Vietnam, the words for the number 35 are also used to mean a 'dirty old man'
3 In Spanish, the word for the bill, or check, in a restaurant is doloroso, meaning sorrowful
4 The Spanish verb desmajolar means to pull up plants by the roots, or to untie shoelaces
5 The Greek word for dragon also means an unchristened baby
6 In Japan, chichi can mean both breasts or a nurse
7 Nabo, the Spanish word for turnip, is commonly used to mean penis
8 In French, a bandaged finger is known as a 'doll'
9 Also in France, mollusque (mollusc) is used for a lazy person
10 We call a shy person at a dance a wallflower; in German they are Schimmel (mould)

Source: these are all from Nigel Lewis' excellent The Book of Babel (Viking 1994)

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