Mixed Metaphors – Don’t Let Them Sneak into Stories

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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.

Other Examples:

  • 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.

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  • 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?


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