Saturday, September 8, 2007

Crazy like a frog


Just the other day some friends were talking about a new game they had developed in their office. More intellectual than wadded-paper-and-trash-can basketball, or the uber-nerdlinger four square that's now popular in Silicon Valley, this game is all about mixed metaphors. The objective is to come up with a combination that, while failing to make sense, is funny.

The oldest example of this kind of mixed metaphor that I can recall is "smokes like a fish," which combines "smokes like a chimney" (logical) with "drinks like a fish" (not really logical since it refers to alcohol consumption and I don't think fish really hit it that hard, except on weekends.) That one's been around a long time, and I have a feeling somebody came up with on purpose. Likewise, "that's not rocket surgery!" which always tends to get a delayed laugh, feels like a line that belongs to some stand up comedian.

Most of your most entertaining mixed metaphors just happen. This topic started cooking with gas on my front burner yesterday when I read somebody's reference to a "carrot on a rope." (Feasible, if not as conceptually pure as the more common "carrot on a stick." And honestly if you want to lure people, rather than horses, to some forward objective, you might be better off with a cheeseburger on a stick or rope, as the case may be.)

Once you start thinking about these linguistic gymnastics, you can get addicted. Here are few faves I found here.
  • A rolling stone is worth two in the bush.
  • Dirty laundry is coming home to roost. (Sourced to Ray Romano.)
  • He clams up tighter than a drum. (From a "Walker, Texas Ranger" script. That's a double MM.)
  • I can read him like an open can of worms.
  • I'm no Monday morning shortstop.
  • If you let that sort of thing go on, your bread and butter will be cut right out from under your feet. (Sourced to British foreign minister Ernet Bevin)
  • Now that the ball is in our court, let's go for the touchdown.
  • No use beating him over the head with a dead horse.
  • You buttered your bread, now sleep in it! (Jiminy Cricket)
  • You can take that to the bank and smoke it. (Stephen J. Cannell)
  • That fish won’t hunt.
  • That really hacks me to a crisp.
OK, I could keep this going 'til the cows turn blue in the face. But I'm as busy as a one-armed paper hanger in an ass-kicking contest today, and I've got to make hay while the iron is hot.

1 comment:

Bryce said...

A famous one: "I will be glad to see England's ship of state get back on its feet." It was not done on purpose. That makes it better. It's sort of like ranking bad movies. You only consider the ones that were not trying to be bad. A better one is to make up axioms. No matter how leftfield it is, it will still seem to make some sense.