The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Careful with Those Metaphors …

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I don't want to make much of this—I just thought it was a funny glitch, of the sort that all of us fall prey to from time to time. But it might also be a reminder for writers to be careful about using figurative phrases, especially ones that are so familiar that we don't really think about their literal meaning: Sometimes, circumstances bring up that literal meaning, and make the phrase jarring or unintentionally funny.

This is closely connected to the problem of mixed metaphors (e.g., "the political equation was thus saturated with kerosene"). There, the literal meaning one half of the metaphor is highlighted by its mismatch with the literal meaning of the other half. Here, the literal meaning of "lock arms" is highlighted by its mismatch with the substance of the situation.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit) for the pointer.