Monday, February 20, 2006

Today's Word: Hypallage

On our latest show, we discussed hypallage (hye-PAL-uh-jee), a.k.a. "the transferred epithet," which occurs when a modifier's misplaced or misapplied, as in a worrying development. (The development isn't actually doing the worrying--someone else is.)

Garner's Modern American Usage has more examples, including feminine napkin. (Technically, the napkin's not feminine--—that is, you can't turn it over like a puppy and check to see.)

On a flight yesterday, I ran into an another example. A sign in the lavatory read: airsick bags. Gee, I hope not!

Hypallage's often used for rhetorical effect. Merriam-Webster calls it "an interchange of two elements in a phrase or sentence from a more logical to a less logical relationship"-- as in "a mind is a terrible thing to waste," when you really mean to say is "to waste a mind is a terrible thing."

So I'm not all that worried by the phrase a worrying (as opposed to a worrisome) development. ButI leaned away from those airsick bags just in case.

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