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.
"Moviemakers talk about "bad laughs." That's when the audience laughs when it's not supposed to. This is conceivably the first movie which is in its entirety a bad laugh."
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.
- 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 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)
- Fiske, Robert Hartwell (1 November 2011). Robert Hartwell Fiske's Dictionary of Unendurable English: A Compendium of Mistakes in Grammar, Usage, and Spelling with commentary on lexicographers and linguists. Scribner. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-4516-5134-8.
- Abrams, Meyer Howard; Harpham, Geoffrey Galt (2009). A Glossary of Literary Terms. Cengage Learning. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-4130-3390-8.
- Ebert, Roger. Missing or empty
- "Week 310: It's Like This". The Washington Post. March 14, 1999. Retrieved 1 June 2014.