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What a Mixed Metaphor Is
A mixed metaphor is one that combines different images or ideas in a way that is confusing or absurd. The images don’t work well with each other.
Yes, I wrote the following mixed metaphor (sigh), and my editor dinged it. (In the scene, the heroine’s in the kitchen and the hero’s in the den.)
Original: Just because the battery in her brain’s smoke detector was dead, didn’t mean there weren’t smokin’ hot vibes in the lion’s den.
Edited: Just because the battery in her brain’s smoke detector was dead, didn’t mean there weren’t smokin’ hot vibes in the den.
- Two thugs working together is a handshake whose fingers should release their grip because they’re horses of a different color.
- She was a sloth when it came to beating the bushes for a job.
Mixed metaphors often combine clichés in ludicrous ways.
- The armchair quarterback was at loggerheads with the all-talk-no-action play.
- The vanilla statement was less than icing on the cake.
- He was bad to the bone, and I had a bone to pick with his bare-bone budget.
Often, mixed metaphors murder clichés.
- His CEO attitude took charge and steam pressed over his colleagues.
- Her diva comment was a hot knife with butter.
It’s best to use only one metaphor in a sentence or even in a paragraph.
What mixed metaphor have you read or heard that irked you or made you laugh?
Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.
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