Bathos (Greek βάθος, meaning depth) is an abrupt transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect. While often unintended, bathos may be used deliberately to produce a humorous effect. If bathos is overt, it may be described as Burlesque or mock-heroic. It should not be confused with pathos, a mode of persuasion within the discipline of rhetoric, intended to arouse emotions of sympathy and pity.
Contemporary examples often take the form of analogies, written to seem unintentionally funny:
- Week 310: It's Like This of The Style Invitational humor contest column in the Washington Post (14 March 1999), on humorous analogies, many exhibiting bathos, such as:
- The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
- (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)
- They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white . . . Mozzarella, although it could possibly be Provolone or just plain American, as it really doesn't taste distinctly dissimilar from the orange, yet they would have you believe it does by coloring it differently.
- Mariann Simms, Wetumpka, AL (2003 Winner)
In humorous science fiction novels:
- The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't.
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978)