Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tangled in the Eyes of a Mixed Metaphor


I am a great fan of the mixed metaphor. Especially when I'm on a crunch to finish a manuscript and need some serious distraction (like now). There’s something so fresh, so invigorating about blending two wildly disparate bits of description. Oh, the visions that arise. The provocative new understandings of our world.

“You’ve buttered your bread; now lie in it!” (Jiminy Cricket.)

Sometimes such phrases slip from one’s mouth unintentionally, craftily created by the subconscious. (You’ve got to wonder about the subconscious. Methinks they’re sleeping giants ready to explode.) One of my faves blurted from a friend of mine during a discussion of a decision she faced: “But that would be putting the cart before the egg.”

How profound. Can you envision the scene? The little red cart, the bridle lines, the dragged egg, now worn and cracked? 'Tis the ultimate picture of poor planning.

Then there’s this one: “I’m going to stick my neck out on a limb.”

Ouch.

And others:

“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 sitting duck.”

Other times mixed metaphors slip into writing—and unfortunately, past the editor’s eye.

In the 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.

Hey, even Shakespeare managed a mixed metaphor: "... take arms against a sea of troubles."

When I need some serious procrastination, I’ve been known to make up a few mixed metaphors of my own. In fact, such pursuits can entertain me for hours. (Somewhere along the way the budding wires of my emotional development must have knitted when they should have purled.)

The tracks of her empathetic tears cemented their friendship.

That politician is too lame-duck to take this hot-button bull by the horns.

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!

That white elephant in the family living room is the ball and chain of his existence.

The stain of his guilt sank talons into his soul.

The sputtering engine of his wild choices hung him on the wrong side of the fence.

A diamond in the rough can’t afford to spit into the wind.

Okay, enough already. I’d better cut this off or I’ll be at it all day. The call of my manuscript gestures for my attention. And the weight of my responsibilities smoke-signal me back to work.

Oh, no, too late. A caravan of mixed metaphors now sails through my head, lifting me to greater nonsensical heights. I ride the wind of their Siren song, drift their ocean of tempting word morsels. Their magnetizing power pulls the rug out from under me. I am awash in their blazing hypnotism, captive to the tide of their fiery darts, crushed beneath the heat of their—

Agh! Fingers of panic scream at me to stop.

Somebody. Please. Help.

10 comments:

Grady Houger said...

That was so. totally. awesome.

Joyce said...

It's okay, Brandilyn, just breathe. Aristotle said "the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is a sign of genius." Take heart, my friend.

Levi Montgomery said...

I must say, I fully expected this to be yet another rant against two metaphors in a row, which so many people seem to believe is what is meant by "mixed metaphor." But not only did you actually stick to true mixed metaphors (well, mostly), you also managed to list my favorite, and one of the pillars of my argument against the canonization of Shakespeare. No high-school English teacher in the world would accept the level of writing that man could come up with.

However, the reference to an albatross around the neck is actually a reference to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It could be argued that it was a (very well-done) mixed metaphor of its time, but it certainly has lost the title now, having become instead a true metaphor that refers to the unwanted burden given to the Ancient Mariner by an angry crew.

Nicole said...

Phew! You're on a roll, buttered on concrete.

Sheila Deeth said...

Don't stop. Don't stop.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Levi, great feedback. Thanks!

Grady, remember when we did the grammar rock, just for you? I ought to dig out that post...

Nicole, Sheila, Joyce--thanks for your comments.

Rachelle said...

See, I said you were the queen and I was right! You rock.

careann said...

What an amazing collection. It requires a lot of mental gymnastics. Thanks for an excellent morning workout. ;)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

thanks for the pleasant diversion, Rachette. I'm supposed to be writing too. But, what the heck. I'll let lying dogs rest like fish jumping and read some of your other blogs.

Oooh, that's bad.

Mocha with Linda said...

I can just imagine the novel if you and Harry Kraus ever team up!

I'll be first in line.

Just read Exposure for the CFBA tour. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. (Can't believe it caught me off guard who she was.) And I couldn't have read it when I was single and living alone.

I don't know how you sleep at night. :-) Do you ever scare yourself?