Burger King plans to buy the Canadian Tim Hortons in an effort to cut taxes as in the following link:


What kind of figurative device is "Burger King" in the title?


1 Answer 1


Your "Burger King" functions as a rhetorical trope called catechresis. Catachresis has been defined by Dr. Robert A. Harris as

"an extravagant, implied metaphor using words in an alien or unusual way."

As for what "pulling a Burger King" is, I haven't a clue. Evidently they've been in the news lately(?) in connection with a tax issue, but I'm not sure.

At any rate, a catachresis which made its way into popular culture in recent decades (and with slightly different wording became the name of a book by Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dime) is the phrase "nickel and diming," as in

"I'm fed up with my credit card company nickel and diming me for every little thing!"

Unlike the "Burger King" locution, I understand what this catachresis means and how it functions. To nickel and dime someone is to sock them with little fees, for example, which individually aren't very big; when combining many little fees, however, the amount can become significant. Banks and credit card companies are notorious for nickel and diming us into the poor house (slight exaggeration).

Nickle-and-diming is clearly not a verb, and yet here it is used as one. Part of the charm of a catachresis is its economy of expression. (I'm a big fan of that!). There is no need to expatiate on what nickel and diming is because the audience will generally catch on immediately as to its denotation and connotation (which is definitely negative!).

There is a time and place for explaining the "nickel and diming" concept in connected sentences--even paragraphs--complete with real-life examples. In making a quick rhetorical thrust at a bad guy or a scapegoat whom your audience considers as such, however, the catachresis is hard to beat in identifying with an audience and getting them to identify with you.

Here are a couple examples of catachresis, thanks to Dr. Harris:

  • The little old lady turtled along at ten miles an hour.

  • They had expected that this news would paint an original grief, but the only result was silk-screened platitudes.

Here's an original catachresis, compliments of yours truly:

  • "There's more than one way to swing a dead cat! You can grab it by the tail, or you can grab it by a leg. You can grab it by an ear, or you can grab it by the whiskers . . .."

Here's another:

  • "The heavyweight boxer solar-plexed his opponent, and immediately his opponent fell to his knees, gasping for air." (The correct word is really two words, solar + plexus, a noun, meaning the pit of the abdomen, or the "bread basket.")

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