1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Anticlimax

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ANTICLIMAX (i.e. the opposite to “climax”), in rhetoric, an abrupt declension (either deliberate or unintended) on the part of a speaker or writer from the dignity of idea which he appeared to be aiming at; as in the following well-known distich:—

“The great Dalhousie, he, the god of war,
Lieutenant-colonel to the earl of Mar.”

An anticlimax can be intentionally employed only for a jocular or satiric purpose. It frequently partakes of the nature of antithesis, as—

“Die and endow a college or a cat.”

It is often difficult to distinguish between “anticlimax” and “bathos”; but the former is more decidedly a relative term. A whole speech may never rise above the level of bathos; but a climax of greater or less elevation is the necessary antecedent of an anticlimax.