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A warning shot in the dark.
November 27, 2002 9:41 AM   Subscribe

A warning shot in the dark: For connoisseurs of clever turns of phrase: The phrase "a warning shot in the dark" popped out at me from a Google News preview panel as being a mixed metaphor. Indeed, a Google search reveals that the phrase has never before been used on the entire Web, which is rather amazing. Delving into the story, it appears by paragraph three that the mixed metaphors are appropriate, in this case.
posted by beagle (35 comments total)

 
Google search reveals that the phrase has never before been used on the entire Web

Google is pretty good but I doubt that its omniscient ;)
posted by squidman at 9:56 AM on November 27, 2002


How did I know if it was going to have *mixed metaphors* it would be about sports?
posted by jkaczor at 10:19 AM on November 27, 2002


Is a warning shot a metaphor?
posted by ODiV at 10:24 AM on November 27, 2002


Or is it more like a simile?
posted by ODiV at 10:25 AM on November 27, 2002


Unless there's an actual gun, it's a metaphor.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:26 AM on November 27, 2002


Actually, it's not a mixed metaphor at all -- it's a perfectly consistent metaphor created by combining two cliches. Clever, but not (IMO) worth a front page post.
posted by languagehat at 10:27 AM on November 27, 2002


Damn it, ODiv, your double post is forcing me to double post.

A simile necessarily uses "like" or "as."
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:27 AM on November 27, 2002


Even scarier is when you are the one responsible for releasing a meme into the ether, at least according to Google.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:32 AM on November 27, 2002


Even scarier is when you are the one responsible for releasing a meme into the ether, at least according to Google.

Is it really a meme if nobody else is saying it? I only saw one Google result there...
posted by oissubke at 10:37 AM on November 27, 2002


If we isolate the meme now, it'll stop propagating.

But we'll burn that bridge after we cross it.
posted by Tacodog at 10:39 AM on November 27, 2002


Actually, it's not a mixed metaphor at all

Then what is the proper definition of a mixed metaphor (I'm not disagreeing with someone named languagehat, I'm just asking)?
posted by yerfatma at 10:40 AM on November 27, 2002


Then what is the proper definition of a mixed metaphor (I'm not disagreeing with someone named languagehat, I'm just asking)?

It may be a mixed metaphor in the strict sense, but the phrase implies an accidental slip of the tongue (or a poor memory) resulting in an awkward combination of two metaphors.

In this case, the combination of "warning shot" and "shot in the dark" appeared to be intentional, so it doesn't seem to fit the connotations of "mixed metaphor".
posted by oissubke at 10:43 AM on November 27, 2002


According to the Merriam Webster -
a figure of speech combining inconsistent or incongruous metaphors

Here is more information, including an example.
posted by drobot at 10:46 AM on November 27, 2002


How does this relate to Googlewhacking, is the question.
posted by Succa at 10:47 AM on November 27, 2002


Google search reveals that the phrase has never before been used on the entire Web

That's not certain, I think, since Google doesn't index words like "the" and "in"... but it's certainly a rare construction and new to me.
posted by holycola at 10:49 AM on November 27, 2002


I don't think we're dealing with mixed metaphors, I think we're dealing with the Before and After category on Wheel of Fortune. You know...like Fishing Rod Stewart, or Long Day's Journey Into Night of the Living Dead.
posted by iconomy at 10:52 AM on November 27, 2002


My sister once heard a friend, who spoke English as a second language, say, "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it."

Brilliant.
posted by pjdoland at 10:55 AM on November 27, 2002


Wow, so if it's not on Google, it's never been on the web. I knew Google was good, but I didn't know it was that good.
posted by stevefromsparks at 10:57 AM on November 27, 2002


Wow, so if it's not on Google, it's never been on the web. I knew Google was good, but I didn't know it was that good.

If you're going to be sarcastic, at least try to make it witty or amusing or something...
posted by oissubke at 11:03 AM on November 27, 2002


[off topic]
All this makes me think of one of my favourite quotes ever.
Shoplifting is a victimless crime, like punching someone in the dark.
- Nelson
[/off topic]
posted by soundofsuburbia at 11:06 AM on November 27, 2002


"Warning shot" and "Shot in the dark" mixed it up at googlefight and "shot in the dark" won.
posted by Frank Grimes at 11:28 AM on November 27, 2002


Is it really a meme if nobody else is saying it? I only saw one Google result there...

Well, this is kinda what I was saying: don't fully trust Google to be the bellwether when looking for completely new ideas on the web. I certainly didn't originate that saying, but if we follow the logic of "a Google search reveals that the phrase has never before been used on the entire Web", I am the one responsible.

And I don't want that kind of responsibility!
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:59 AM on November 27, 2002


Did anyone else notice the "sponsored link" for the google search: "warning shot in the dark"? Maybe I'm the only one to have found it funny.
posted by ArcAm at 12:07 PM on November 27, 2002


Mixed Metaphors to Delight and Amaze You

I like "Marching to the beat of a dead horse."
posted by Silune at 12:44 PM on November 27, 2002


From the site linked above, my favorite:

It's not rocket surgery.
posted by jaded at 1:02 PM on November 27, 2002


a simile is like a metaphor :^)
posted by krunk at 1:21 PM on November 27, 2002


"We'll burn that bridge when we come to it."

The way I've lived most of my adult life.

And those last two from jaded and Silune are comedy gold. I love it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:23 PM on November 27, 2002


Whereas the metaphor is a mutant simile, yes. :)

Also, it's not too hard to claim a monopoly on an unlike google search, as I've learned.
posted by cortex at 1:26 PM on November 27, 2002


My sister once heard a friend, who spoke English as a second language, say ...

A friend of mine says that his girlfriend's mother is full of malapropisms. One time, he claims, she accused them of having too lavish a lifestyle -- "living high on the cob."

His girlfriend has apparently inherited this propensity.
posted by kindall at 1:56 PM on November 27, 2002


The old New Yorker used to feature short filler material at the end of their articles, in different categories. One was called Block That Metaphor! and involved horrendously mangled and mixed metaphors, or in rarer cases, one overriding metaphor carried well beyond necessity.

Oh, and Google should have found this: "Warning! Shot in the dark ahead."; tip o' the hat to All The Web. Also, A Shot in the Dark beats Warning Shot, though it's just a guess.
posted by dhartung at 2:14 PM on November 27, 2002


Sounds like a mixed metaphor to me languagehat, as the two metaphors involved don't illustrate the same idea. In fact, they're closer to being opposites than to being equal.

It's certainly evocative though. I like it.
posted by Hildago at 3:59 PM on November 27, 2002


Silune, thanks for the link! I laughed quite a bit. For some reason, this one in particular made me laugh:

Once again, the Achilles' heel of the Philadelphia Eagles' defense has reared its ugly head

At first glance, I was in agreement with Languagehat, that these were not metaphors at all but simply two cliches joined at the hip. But reading the phrase in context:

International Olympic Committee (IOC) leaders fired a warning shot in the dark at all Olympic sports on Tuesday, telling them that their place in the Summer Games would be reviewed on a regular basis.

it is clear that the IOC did not literally fire a shot (in the dark or otherwise) which makes this, then, a metaphor-- something considered as representing or symbolizing another thing.

Trying my own hand :

She had a few loose screws which made her brain come unhinged.

Why don't you go take a long walk off a short pier and go drown your sorrows.

He always was a fly-by-night-by-the-seat of his pants operator.

Hmmm, this is harder then it looks.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:52 PM on November 27, 2002


Well, Secret Life of Gravy, it looks like the foot's on the other hand now, isn't it! Creating your own mixed metaphors is a whole different ball of fish.

I use the phrase "a whole different ball of fish" all the time, like whenever I get a chance, and not once has anyone ever pointed out that it fundamentally makes no sense.

Speaking of which, fans of mangled language may want to check out this recent letter to The Register, which includes the absolute gem:

"Or perhaps the truth is less interesting than the facts?"

Keep thinking about it. It makes less and less sense, and yet comes to seem more and more profound. The punchline, of course, is that this twinkling bit of nonsense was penned by Amy Weiss, who works for the RIAA. As Senior VP... of Communications.
posted by rusty at 10:00 PM on November 27, 2002


Hildago: A mixed metaphor is like a mixed salad; it's got bits of two or more inconsistent images tossed in together in the same passage. "He chewed his cud for a while before erupting in a barrage of fireworks that beat his audience into submission," that sort of thing. "A warning shot in the dark" is perfectly consistent; I'm sure plenty of them have in fact been fired as hostile ships passed in the night. It's not mixed, just unusual; that's what they pay headline writers to do ("Headless Body in Topless Bar").
posted by languagehat at 7:24 AM on November 28, 2002


Rusty, thanks for the laugh-- your "ball of fish" is a whole 'nother keattle of wax. I'm rolfing on the floor laughing my shirt off.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:23 AM on November 29, 2002


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