am a great fan of the mixed metaphor. There’s something so fresh, so
invigorating about blending two wildly disparate bits of description.
Oh, the visions that arise.
“You’ve buttered your bread;
now lie in it!” (Jiminy Cricket.)
Yes, mixed metaphors are
fun—when they’re intended. And they can create quite a laugh when they
slip from someone’s mouth unintentionally, craftily created by the
subconscious. (You’ve got to admit the subconscious is often a sleeping
giant ready to explode.) One of my favorites blurted from a friend of
mine during a discussion of a decision she faced: “But that would be
putting the cart before the egg.”
Can’t you just see that scene?
The little red cart, the bridle lines, the dragged egg, now worn and
cracked? Talk about the ultimate picture of poor planning.
Then there’s this one: I’m going
to stick my neck out on a limb.
If that were true, why are such
sanguine voices shrugging it off?
This job is a real albatross
around my neck.
Yeah, yeah, but an open mind
can be a double-edged sword.
That’s a lot of baggage for a
We can laugh about all of these.
But what about the mixed metaphors that slip into our writing? Take
these sentences that I’ve spotted:
chasm between them, his belated apology made not a single dent.
The bonfire of his desire could not quench the fear in her heart.
In the sea of life, there are many crossroads.
Even Shakespeare managed a mixed metaphor: “. . . take arms against a
sea of troubles.”
I need some serious procrastination, I’ve been known to make up a few
mixed metaphors of my own. (Somewhere along the way the budding wires
of my emotional development must have knitted when they should have
of her empathetic tears cemented their friendship.
That politician is too lame-duck to take this hot-button bull by the
Her cheeks blossomed with color, erasing the fire in her eyes.
He’ll take you down a rosy path, then turn it on its head!
The white elephant in the family living room is the ball and chain of
of his guilt sank talons into his soul.
The sputtering engine of his wild choices hung him on the wrong side of
A diamond in the rough can’t afford to spit into the wind.
examples. The call of
this article now gestures for me to get on with my points. The weight
of my responsibility to teach you something smoke-signals me to issue a
challenge: Have you allowed a mixed metaphor to slip into
1. Find your sentences that
use metaphor. (Remember, a metaphor is a direct comparison. A simile
uses words such as like or as.
But similes can be mixed, too.)
2. Read the sentence
carefully. Does your metaphor work with the verb?
A caravan of ideas sailed
through my head. (Last time I checked, caravans don’t sail.)
3. Read the sentence again.
Does your metaphor work with the rest of the description?
She rode the wind of their
siren song. (A siren song is heard; the wind is not.) I felt awash in
their blazing hypnotism (really?), captive to the tide of their fiery
darts (do tell), crushed beneath the heat of their—
Have you come up with a great
mixed metaphor? Send it to me. We’ll laugh over it. Just keep it out of