Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mixed Metaphor Mashup


One of the most joyful ongoing pursuits of any linguaphile is the hobby of collecting of mixed metaphors.  Just yesterday a friend averted a political discussion that could have gotten ugly by saying she didn’t want to open up a whole new bag of worms, to which I replied that she was just reaching into her old can of tricks.

Mixed metaphors come in a variety of shapes. A common one, like the examples cited in the opening paragraph, is the act of attempting to say a common comparative phrase, but  substituting one component of the phrase with a different word. The best ones are unintentionally funny or in some way ring the bell of irony.

I recall a good one from Daniel Menaker’s fine novel, The Treatment, in which the protagonist’s Indian therapist refutes his patient’s claim that all single women in New York are emotional wrecks by suggesting, “There are plenty of fish in the sea hitting on all eight cylinders.” Non-native speakers often utter them to great comic effect.

You might be getting your ducks on the same page or Hillary’s poll numbers might be dropping through the roof, but if you truly hold your seat to fire, even if your eyes have never set foot on a mixed metaphor, you can have more fun than a hand-basket full of monkeys collecting them.