The UVic Writer's Guide

Mixed Metaphors

A mixed metaphor attempts to create an extended comparison but fails because it is not consistent with itself. For example, in an essay on the language used in describing pain relief medicine, a student wrote:

"The topic of pain relievers seems clouded in a sea of medical terminology."

The metaphor is mixed because the images of cloud and sea do not match. The student should have said either "drowned in a sea of medical terminology" or "clouded in a fog of medical terminology." Metaphor can be effective, but do not put too much weight on your own ingenuity; it might collapse under the strain.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 21, 1995