Thursday, September 17, 2009

A few amusing examples of mixed metaphors (2)

Although mixed metaphors can be amusing to read, you should be careful to avoid writing them. Mixed metaphors not only amuse but also distract. Your readers may pause to laugh at a mixed metaphor and lose track of your main argument. They may even stop reading.


A September 13, 2009 post on “The King’s College-ENG 110” blog pointed out this mixed metaphor from Our Town, N.Y., cited by The New Yorker in March 2000:

“ ‘The environment [of a subway station] contributes to the fear that develops in men and women. The moment that you walk into the bowels of the armpit of the cesspool of crime, you immediately cringe.’ ” (Boldface added.)

A rare quadruple mixed metaphor!


From a September 14, 2009 comment on the “Alpine Opinion” blog:

“EVERY DOG DESERVES HIS DAY IN COURT. (Somehow I think that’s a mixed metaphor)”

It may also be fair to coin the phrase “mixed bromide” to describe that mixed metaphor: It is a combination of “Every dog has his day” and “You will have your day in court,” both bromides. But that may be confusing, because “mixed bromide” may be a mixed metaphor itself (a literal bromide is a chemical and can be mixed with other chemicals).


From a September 16, 2009 post on the “Playing in the Word Farm” blog:

“Metaphors carried to (and sometimes beyond) their logical conclusions can obviously be entertaining. They can be made even more entertaining by derailing them with what’s commonly known as a mixed metaphor. In a letter to a friend, for instance, I once bemusedly watched myself write, ‘she steeled her threadbare nerves.’ ”

The Takeaway: Be careful to avoid mixed metaphors (unless you are deliberately using them for comedic or educational effect). Whenever possible, have someone edit your copy; it’s hard to spot your own mixed metaphors.


  1. I rather like the dog one, but a point well taken. :)

    As a tech writer, I appreciate efforts aimed at teaching people to write clearly. Thank you for maintaining this blog!

  2. Very useful and very interesting. Thank you for following me on Twitter so I could check out your profile and find this. :)

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