Friday, February 04, 2011

Cliché: in harm's way

Meaning: making yourself available to be harmed (example)

Rewrite 1: in harm's glide path
Rewrite 2: on harm's playground
Rewrite 3: on harm-friendly grounds
Rewrite 4: playing on harm's turf
Rewrite 5: right where harm wants you

Comment: There was plenty of room to work using just harm as the central keyword, but I'd like to see what you might come up with for words other than harm.

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Jacques said...

On the red X (like those old cartoons)
In danger's reach
Skating on thin ice (try playing around with the on thin ice cliche)

I can't think of any more off the bat. (Ugh I need a way to slay that cliche!) Therefore I will just say that I am enjoying this blog. Keep it up!

Booksville Bookclub said...

Hi Jacques! Some good thoughts. Funny how quickly our minds turn to idioms, I suspect because we're all so busy.

I'll give some thought to "skating on thin ice." Thanks for the suggestion.

Glad you enjoy the blog. Makes it worthwhile to continue working on it!


Jacques said...

You are welcome. I find that we turn to clichés and idioms not because they are clichés and we've heard them so often, but because it is a metaphor that it fits the hole that we need to fill perfectly and when used the first time, sometimes poetically. Now the problem with that is because it fits we over-use it and others do it for the same reason. When it is used so much we find ourselves using it because we are lazy and can't think of anything else. Clichés become part of culture but in a bad way showing that we have no creativity. That is very sad in truth.

Now that I've added to the pot (alternative to putting in my two cents), I'd like to ask if you have heard of compound idioms/mixed metaphors, what you choose.
You have probably heard, "Wake up and smell the coffee." (Be more alert!)
Also you may have listened to someone say, "Read the writing on the wall." (Look at the bad news in front of you!)
However have you heard, "Wake up and smell the coffee on the wall." (Combining them: Wake up and see the chaos around you!)
There have been numerous of these and show people trying to make new stuff but relying on clichés and overused idioms to do so.
They can be quite confusing (like above). Although very few are in even local use, they are around and I have seen them increasingly often. Could you clarify these to people?

After researching this I found a episode of the podcast "Grammar Girl" that used the exact same example as I but didn't go into much detail of origins and mainly focused on the Obama, "Green behind the ears," quote. Here it is if you want to listen to it:

Sorry for the long post.

Booksville Bookclub said...

Hi again, Jacques. I have no problem with long posts if they state your case and clarify your point, which your post does.

Mixed metaphors - combining two or more metaphors or idioms into one - are not uncommon and usually stem from lack of familiarity of the material, lack of research, or lack of serious effort. Sometimes mixed metaphors are created purposely for comedic effect, in which case they usually hit their mark. A well used metaphor makes a point, whereas a mixed metaphor usually misses the point and may, in fact, cause confusion and often derision.

Someone who uses a mixed metaphor seriously usually looks ill informed and boorish. If the mixing is strange enough, they may even look foolish. For these reasons, it pays to know your metaphors and idioms and make sure you use them correctly. If you're going to use one comedically, it pays to ensure your audience knows you're doing so on purpose (using gestures or facial expressions, for instance).

Using metaphors have probably been around as long as people have communicated. Mixing metaphors has probably been around the same amount of time. It's something people do, sometimes hilariously, sometimes disastrously. As communicators, we need to know the difference.

Good question, Jacques! Thanks.