Posted by: Jack Henry | February 21, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Mixed Metaphors

I recently read a book that is full of extraordinary metaphors, and it made me want to share some information about these useful figures of speech.

A metaphor is a word or phrase that is used to compare two unlike objects, ideas, thoughts, or feelings to provide a mental image and a clear description. For example, when I say that my father is a rock, the comparison lets you know how solid and dependable he is. When I say that the DMV employee had a wooden face, you understand that the agent showed no emotion (surprise!). If I say that my heart swelled watching the children play, you know that I was feeling very happy emotions.

Metaphors make language come to life. We may not use them much in technical writing, but we use them in speech, in our emails, and in other correspondence. Here are some common examples:

  • Time is money.
  • You are my sunshine.
  • He has a heart of stone.
  • I was jumping for joy.
  • She’s the apple of his eye.
  • It’s raining cats and dogs.
  • I’m dead tired.
  • He’s as strong as an ox.

You can create your own metaphors to express your thoughts and feelings. Here are some less common examples:

  • These shoes are prisons for my feet.
  • Chocolate is my drug.
  • He’s my Adam; I’m his Eve.

What you don’t want to do is mix metaphors. Doing so creates competing imagery—but mixed metaphors are often funny. Here are some examples of humorous mixed metaphors with brief explanations:

  • You better not burn your bridge when you get to it.
    (Mixes two common—even cliched—metaphors: “Don’t burn your bridges” and “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”)
  • All at once, he was alone in the noisy hive with no place to roost.
    (Mixes a metaphor about a bee’s hive with a metaphor about the place where birds rest at night.)
  • It’s our turn at bat, so let’s make this touchdown for the company.
    (Mixes two different sports metaphors.)

You get the point. Metaphors are fun to create, and when they’re original, they’re fun to hear and read. They can liven up our speech and writing (even so, you won’t catch us sprinkling them throughout Episys eDocs—I campaigned to introduce colorful metaphors into our documentation, but my boss didn’t go for it).

If you’d like to read a little bit more about mixed metaphors, click this link. And if you’d like to read some clever (slightly saucy) medical metaphors from the TV show House, click this link.

I hope that for the rest of the day, you’re as happy as a pig in a china shop!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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