Friday, March 24, 2006

Metaphorical Mixing

I love a good mixed metaphor (and a mashed simile), and keep meaning to write them all down somewhere. So I guess it's going to be here.

Mixed metaphors seem to be sneaking in everywhere. I first really began to notice them in New Zealand, but they are perhaps more prominent in Australian English, which may explain the relish with which they are lampooned by Kath & Kim. They've come out with some corkers in their time! Not to mention their many entertaining malapropisms, such as:

Kim - "I want to be effluent, mum!"
Kath - "You are effluent, Kim!"

Perhaps I should group these mixed metaphors into ones I've heard people use for real, and ones that have been made up for comic effect either by myself or others.

The real deal:
  • I don't want this to fall through the toilet.
This was said in a meeting by one of the managing directors of a company I worked for. A delightful combination of "I don't want this to fall through" and "I don't want this to go down the toilet", it conjures up images of fractured cisterns and shattered porcelain.
  • ... if I can just throw in a left ball.
As said by a delightful friend and former colleague when she got the notion of throwing in an idea mixed up with the notion of throwing in something from left field, and for reasons best known to herself decided that with all those references to fields and throwing, balls had to be involved somewhere. The resulting metaphor sounds distinctly uncomfortable, not to mention ill-advised on medical grounds.
  • I have heard that they were working like Trojan horses.
This one, which was probably the one that really woke me up to the mixed metaphor as a feature of NZ English. It was said by a news presenter during an interview with a crew member from Peter Jackson's first Lord Of The Rings movie. The chap being interviewed had commented on how hard everyone had worked, and the presenter came out with this gem. The interviewee was clearly trying hard not to laugh.

The made up nonsense:

I was going to put explanations of these, but have decided that that would be like Gary Larson explaining all his cartoons. If you don't get it, you're not meant to. I'll try and indicate the ones that aren't my own. The others are ones I made up, although I'm entirely aware that other folks might have arrived at them independently of my good self. Or my bad self.
  • That will put the cat amongst the apple carts
  • I had a Road To Damoclese moment
  • Looks like you've been burning the candle at both ends of the spectrum (Kath & Kim)
  • That's a completely different kettle of ball-games
  • I was caught between hell and high water
  • Don't go casting nasturtiums (Kath & Kim)
  • He kicked it for six (Rob Harrison)
  • Stick that up your jumper and smoke it
  • Out of the frying pan, into a hard place

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