Bathos

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This article is part of the Figures of Speech course. You may choose to follow it in a structured way, or read each item separately.

Bathos is a figure of speech. It applies to a whole text, or a substantial part of it. (There is an associated adjective: bathetic.) Bathos is an anti-climax, usually so strongly marked that it becomes funny.

OED calls it "Ludicrous descent from the elevated to the commonplace in writing or speech; anticlimax", and goes on to define anticlimax as "The opposite of climax ... the addition of a particular which, instead of heightening the effect, suddenly lowers it or makes it ludicrous." There is an adjective anticlimactic. (See also climax, of which anticlimax is, obviously, the opposite.)