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Grammar mixology: mixed metaphor cocktails

"Well that’s what happens," said a coworker, "when there’s too many cooks in the oven." You’ve got to love the metaphor mixers out there. How nimbly they grab the head of one idiom and slap it on the tail of another. Isn’t even one cook in the oven too many? Or was she going for that whole Hansel-and-Gretel-let’s-have-humans-for-dinner overture? 

Here are a few more tasty examples of overheard metaphor mixing:

"Let’s throw the kitchen sink at the wall to see if it sticks." (Hey Danny, get me the extra-strength Velcro, will ya?) 

"I’d have to pull a rabbit out of my ass." (Well if you can do that, who needs a hat?) 

"We need to make a stack in the ground." (Of what, pancakes?)

"That would change the world on its head." (This one’s so tangled, I’m not even sure how many idioms it mashes up.)

Keep ‘em coming, fearless word butchers. When I collect enough, I want to write a book. Unless that’s putting all my eggs in one drawing board. 

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Would you date this guy?

I try not to bring my grammar obsession into relationships, but in this case, can you blame me? Check out this profile from a guy who “winked” at me on Match.com:

I’m easy going,kind ,not to demanding, like have people over to watch the loins game or watch it ourselfs…if u been thru a divorice, its not that easy putting ur heart back out ttheir…my mom and aunt lives a few blocks away n i visits them every day…well if this is someone like u , lets talk,talk,talk and c where it goes.

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Hey Mr. Rite, it’s okay if you aren’t a terrific speller, but there’s this thing called spell check. And as for grammar, maybe someone who got B’s in high school English could give your profile a look-see? 

I’m sure he meant the Detroit Lions when he mentioned “the loins game.” Then again, what if he didn’t? A swirling uncertainty give me one more reason to tell him, “I dont thinks ur the one for mi.”

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I’ll have some butchered words, thinly sliced

What I imagine surprises every American who crosses the pond is Europeans’ uncanny facility for language. In my hotel, the maitre ‘d greeted one guest in French, chatted with another in Spanish and explained guest services to me in English. Oh, and she’s Italian. She moved through languages as easily as I shift gears on my bike.

But what twists the knickers of Europeans is the assumption that because they know some of our language, we don’t have to learn any of theirs. In Paris, I saw an entitled American woman lean over the cappuccino counter and say, Hey, you got any of that sugar-free sweetener? She didn’t even pause to ask the barista if he spoke English. She just expected him to bend to her oafishness. (And really, in a crowded French cafe, couldn’t she make like the locals and suck up the extra 16 calories of regular sugar?)

The Slovenian tour leader I traveled with (who spoke Italian, English and Slovene) said that offering up a simple “buongiorno” or “gratzie” goes a long way in showing respect to the local people. It’s not about the execution. It’s about the attempt. If Europeans can learn to speak our language, is it so much to ask that we learn a few words in theirs?

So butcher away. It doesn’t matter if you botch the pronunciation of “merci beaucoup” or “gute Nacht.” In a foreign land, residents will give you more credit for getting words wrong in their language than getting them right in yours.

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Devil’s advocates? Why don’t we call them what they really are?

I have two words I’d like to strike from the English lexicon. Devil’s. Advocate. No great thought ever started with these words. I can pretty much guarantee no one ever said, “Quiet everyone, Satan’s sidekick is about to quash what we just agreed to do.”

Why else is the phrase always preceded by, “I hate to be a…” Actually, you don’t. You love crashing the conversation. (And let’s face it, we’ve all done it at one time or another.)

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Why don’t we just be honest and say what we really mean: 

-Pardon me, but I’m the jackass in this conversation.

-When I’m finished with this sentence, I will have shat all over your idea.

-It took me awhile, but I finally found a way to riddle what you just said with bullet holes.

Keanu Reeves. Now that’s a lieutenant of Lucifer. The rest of us? Let’s agree to stop advocating for anyone who wants to drag a perfectly good idea into the pits of Hell.

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Lazy adjectives: The rubber chickens of conversation

A friend recently posted that a certain movie was “awesome.” No description. No details. It was just, you know, awesome. Was it a tearjerker? A white-knuckle ride? An escape to another world? A smack upside the head? Her words gave me no idea of what made it awesome. Merely that it was.

I was recently sent a list of the 10 most overused adjectives (and a few adverbs.) It was no surprise to find my friend’s word on the list:

1.  Literally

2.  Seriously

3.  Awesome

4.  Sweet

5.  Fantastic

6.  Ridiculous

7.  Cool

8.  Fabulous

9.  Nice

10.  Basically

Let’s face it. We all fall back on these words. They’re easy and we’re lazy. They’re the rubber chickens of adjectives. You can throw them around all you want, but all they do is lie there.

The next time you’re about to utter one of these overused words, stop. It won’t take long to pick a more vivid one. And kill the rubber chickens of conversation. Oh wait, no need. They’re already dead.

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#nowthatchersdead freaks out Cher fans

If capitalization doesn’t matter, who died in this week’s hashtag? It read: #nowthatchersdead. If you’d heard the new about the former prime minister, you’d know they were talking about Margaret. If not, you’d be likely to pluck “Cher” out of this confusing string of words. 

Many a tweet asked if Cher really died. Many more lamented her passing. All because no one felt compelled to press the SHIFT key a few times to bring some clarity to the conversation. Not to mention dropping the apostrophe in “Thatcher’s.” But in Internet parlance, I know that’s asking too much.

C’mon, fellow tweeters. Would it be that hard to write #NowThatchersDead? Three capital letters and it changes the whole message. While we’re at it, how about a little more respect for the Iron Lady? A gentler #RestInPeaceMargaret would have done nicely. And if a photo was attached, there’d be no confusion whatsoever.

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180 vs. 360. A matter of degrees.

"He really got his act together. He did a complete 360," said a friend about her stepson. Well, not exactly. For this word unbutchering, let’s go back to geometry.

There are 360 degrees in a circle, right? So if you move 90 degrees from any starting point on a circle, you’ve taken a right turn. A solid step in a new direction.

If you go 180 degrees (which is what she meant to say) you’d be moving in the opposite direction, which is the greatest possible change for someone whose act is out of whack.

But if this guy did a complete 360, he’d be right back at the same place in the circle. (Notice on the diagram above that 0 and 360 degrees are in the same place.) He would have wasted a lot of time and degrees just to travel back to his lousy beginnings.

Yes, I knew what she meant. And, no, I didn’t correct her. I was just happy to hear her stepson was back on track.

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It seems I have a palate for misusing palettes

The other day, I asked an art director to stay within a certain color palate. Damn you, homonyms. I meant to write “palette.” So which is which, and what’s with the lopped-off “palett" version?

In the art world, a palette is both the board an artist uses to mix colors and a group of colors chosen to create a visual theme. So the art world got the “ette" version — the fancier spelling. It figures.

In biology, a “palate” is both the roof of your mouth and the way you taste things (your appreciation of flavors.) You may have a “sensitive palate.” A “discerning palate.” Or a just plain lousy one. Science got the more practical “ate” spelling. Which also makes sense.

In business, a wood shelf the warehouse guys stack up and move around with forklifts? That’s a “palett.” Which looks wrong every time I write it. So the guys down in shipping got the “Who gives a crap how it looks?” version. Which makes all the sense in the world.

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Pedal pushers are now capris, rouge is now blush. Who gets to decide?

Exactly when do we decide a word is passé, cut it loose and bring in its replacement? 

When I was a kid, we sat on the “davenport” glued to Leave It To Beaver, which later became the “sofa.” Why? 

In those days, my father wore trousers and galoshes. And then one day, he showed up in pants and overshoes.

I used to steal my mother’s rouge, which always sounded so exotic, but now we wear blush. And something got lost in the process.

Wouldn’t you rather wear pedal pushers or clam diggers than capris? They were such visually playful names. And don’t culottes sound more fun to wear than split skirts or skorts?

I used to buy a bismarck at the bakery. Now it’s a jelly donut. The attaché, which was oh so 007, has now been demoted to a briefcase. Do they still share dossiers with secret agents, or have they been watered down to “briefs?”

Is there a word snatcher out there stealing words that are getting long in the tooth and replacing them with neutered versions, or does it just sort of happen on its own? Come to think of it, who says “long in the tooth” anymore? I guess now things just get “old.”

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Using Social Media To Cover For Lack Of Original Thought - Onion Talks - Ep. 6 (by TheOnion)

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