What's this reportedly AmEng usage of fracture to mean go beyond the limits of (as rules); violate (M-W), as in "This writer fractured the English language with malaprops"?

How does this word differ from violate?


I merely fractured/violated copyright law.

Also, can it be used interchangeably as a noun for violation; transgression; infringement? (See synonyms for breach)


It is a "fracture" (violation) of international law to use evidence that is the product of torture in a UK criminal prosecution.

She had said that the "fracture" (transgression) was all the more shocking because the official was charged with enforcing federal laws against sexual harassment.

Necessity is the plea for every "fracture" (infringement) of human freedom.


: U.S.: enfreindre (la loi, etc.) : Eng. contravene (the law, etc.)

fractured the law Google Search

fractured the rules Google Search

Many of them drink before they are twenty-one, and thus violate the law of most states, but often their liquor is served to them by their parents or their parents' friends. The debutante parties given by the leading citizens of society fracture the law spectacularly in this particular regard. ABA Journal

Source: Harrap's New Shorter French and English Dictionary, Ed. 1985

: to disrupt or destroy as if by breaking: fractured the delicate balance of power.

: to abuse or misuse flagrantly, as by violating rules: ignorant writers who fracture the language.

fractured the language Google Search


: to go beyond the limits of (as rules) : violate : fractured the English language with malaprops — Goodman Ace

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE January 26, 1995 Page 8 of 10

SENATOR AL BISHOP questioned why anyone under 21 was not at the hearing testifying about their rights. Ms. Agather stated that this is final week in Kalispell so the young adults who wanted to be at the hearing with her could not attend. SENATOR BISHOP questioned whether Mr. Campbell was saying that the Constitution should not be changed for any reason. SENATOR BISHOP felt that the Constitution is a document that should grow along with the people. Mr. Campbell stated that all people should be treated equally under the Constitution. He would rather see all gambling banned instead of fracturing people's rights. SENATOR BISHOP maintained that in 1972 we did not have legalized gambling in Montana. Mr. Campbell stated the Constitution banned it completely. There was a side issue asking whether the people wanted the legislature to regulate gambling or not. The people said "yes". courts.mt.gov


: to violate or abuse : This writer really fractures the language

syn. abuse, misuse, pervert - change the inherent purpose or function of something

WordNet by Farlex

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    It means that the grammar police attacked him with billy clubs and stun guns. – Hot Licks Dec 26 '15 at 17:03
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    I've never encountered the sense fracture = contravene, go beyond the limits of (a law, etc.). I can see that there's a possible overlap in something like Some trigger-happy soldiers fractured the ceasefire, but essentially that means the ceasefire itself was broken, damaged, (and thereby nullified). Things like laws aren't actually damaged, broken by lawbreaking. Your link to the definition of breach doesn't actually include the word fracture, only infraction (which is used in such contexts). – FumbleFingers Dec 26 '15 at 17:06
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    It's a metaphor. – Mitch Dec 26 '15 at 17:42
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    @Mitch - Is there any dictionary in existence that doesn't have metaphors as entries, given that maybe a third of English words are metaphors of one sort or another? – Hot Licks Dec 26 '15 at 20:03
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    @HotLicks Good point. At some point all words are metaphors. But then it seems like a stretch to put all possible metaphors in the dictionary. Does the dictionary entry for 'whale' have all its possible literat metaphors listed? – Mitch Dec 26 '15 at 20:37

By and large, fracture isn't used like this in American English. In America, instead of the verb fracture, its synonym break is most often used. As far as nouns go, Americans opt for infraction over fracture. Obviously, one can see how fracture can carry off these meanings and would likely even be well enough understood by Americans who heard it, but being that you're asking about American English, know that Americans don't use fracture in these ways.


"This writer fractured the English language with malaprops" simply means the author in question "ruined" or "destroyed" the language with a series of malapropisms. It's informal, stylistic hyperbole and should not be applied to serious matters (such as in your examples).

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    I think the metaphor goes deeper in that a fracture is a thin crack in something that hasn’t completely broken in two yet. The writers didn’t completely break the language, they just fractured it. – Jim Dec 26 '15 at 21:56

Fracture in American English has a connotation somewhere between break and shatter. Violate doesn't fall on this spectrum. Rather, when one violates something, there is a more black-and-white state change from compliance to non-compliance.

This is all connotation and what I presume (without references, and from my experience :-)), is common usage.

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