Cacozelia: Definition & Examples

Cacozelia is a stylistic affectation of diction; where excessive inkhorn termsOpens in new window or words are adopted by an interlocutor, in the guise to appear learned. Particularly, the extravagant borrowing of erudite, or archaic dictions to impress the audience (the hearers and readers).

An Example of Cacozelia

  1. Accident delays the ceremony until night, when, just as the lady is hesitating whether she shall say yes, or no, the tall gentleman ycleped Sterling [etc.].

    — (Poe, Review of The Hawks of Hawk-Hollow, 8:69)

The term ycleped means called, named, and we can certainly consider it “an obscure, affectedly erudite borrowing.” (Brett Zimmerman, Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric & Style)

Closely related to cacozelia is mingle-mangle or soraismus, described by George PuttenhamOpens in new window as “when we make our speech or writings of sundry languages using some Italian word, or French, or Spanish, or Dutch, or Scottish, not for the nonce or for any purpose (which were in part excusable) but ignorantly and affectedly” — (The Arte of English Poesie, 1589).

Scholarly views on the device

  1. Views of Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu. — “Affected writing typically contains inappropriate abstract, highly technical, or foreign words and is often liberally sprinkled with trendy buzzwords.”

    — (Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu, The Business Writer's Handbook, 10th ed., 2011)

  2. Mark Twain alluding Writers who succumb to Foreign Languages.“They know a word here and there, of a foreign language, and these they are continually peppering into their literature, with a pretense of knowing that language — what excuse can they offer?

    The foreign words and phrases that they use have their exact equivalent in a nobler language — English; yet they think they 'adorn their page' when they say Strasse for street, and Bahnhof for railway station, and so on—flaunting these fluttering rags of poverty in the reader's face and imagining he will be ass enough to take them for the sign of untold riches held in reserve.”

    — (Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880)

  3. Quintillian's Views.“Cacozelia, or perverse affectation, is a fault in every kind of style: for it includes all that is turgid, trivial, luscious, redundant, far-fetched or extravagant, while the same name is also applied to virtues carried to excess, when the mind loses its critical sense and is misled by the false appearance of beauty, the worst of all offenses against style, since other faults are due to carelessness, but this is deliberate.

    This form of affectation, however, affects style alone. For the employment of arguments which might equally well be advanced by the other side, or are foolish, inconsistent or superfluous, are all faults of matter, whereas corruption of style is revealed in the employment of improper or redundant words, in obscurity of meaning, effeminacy of rhythm, or in the childish search for similar or ambiguous expressions. Further, it always involves insincerity, even though all insincerity does not imply affectation. For it consists in saying something in an unnatural or unbecoming or superfluous manner.”

    — (Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 95 AD; translated by H.E. Butler)

  4. George Puttenham's Views“Ye have another intolerable ill maner of speach, which by the Greekes originall we may call fonde affectation, and is when we affect new words and phrases other than the good speakers and writers in any language hath allowed, and is the common fault of young schollers not halfe so well studied before they come from the Universitie or Schooles, and when they come to their friends, or happen to get some benefice or other promotion in their countreys, will seeme to coigne fine wordes out of the Latin, and to use new fangled speaches, thereby to shew themselves among the ignorant the better learned.”

    —(George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, 1589)

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