Share this Page URL

Chapter 10. Dazed and Confused: Common U... > Split Infinitives: To Boldly Go Wher... - Pg. 101

Dazed and Confused: Common Usage Dilemmas 101 As you can tell from the preceding definition, metaphors are innocent creatures that never did harm to anyone. That being the case, how can we explain this abomination: "I don't want to say they lost sight of the big picture, but they have marched to a different drum- mer," Victor Fortuno, the general counsel of Legal Services Corporation, said of the individual lawyer's challenges. "Whether it will upset the apple cart, I don't know." Like the title of this section, this passage is a mixed metaphor , a combination of images that do not work well together. It's like that old joke: "Keep your eye on the ball, your ear to the ground, your nose to the grindstone, your shoulder to the wheel: Now try to work in that position." Here are some other mixed metaphors: · Milking the temp workers for all they were worth, the manager barked orders at them. (The first image suggests cows; the second, dogs. That's one animal too many.) · Unless we tighten our belts, we'll sink like a stone. (Belts and a stone? I think not.) · The fullback was a bulldozer, running up and down the field like an angel. (Only Ali could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee; this football bulldozer can't move like an angel.) · The movie weaves a story that herds characters and readers into the same camp. (Let's not mix spiderwebs and cattle roundups.) You Could Look It Up A mixed metaphor is a combination of images that do not work well together. Strictly Speaking Mixed metaphors occur when writers string together clichés. Don't string together clichés and you won't get mixed metaphors. More on this in Chapter 24. Like all comparisons, metaphors must contain elements that can be compared logically--even if not explicitly. The comparison must be consistent as well. Like my sister zooming to the sweaters at a department store super sale, stay focused on a single element when you create metaphors. Oth- erwise, you risk creating the dreaded mixed metaphor. Don't mix your drinks or your metaphors and you'll go far. Here are two more suggestions to help you keep your metaphors straight: · Use only a single metaphor per paragraph. · Make sure the verb matches the action the subject of the metaphor might take. (For example: a bulldozer driving up the field.) Split Infinitives: To Boldly Go Where Everyone Else Goes As their motto proves, the crew of the USS Enterprise split their infinitives along with their atoms. The motto should read: "To Go Boldly ..." They're not alone. You were introduced to split infini- tives in Chapter 2. Remember that a split infinitive occurs when an adverb or adverbial phrase is placed between to and the verb.