10 December, 2006

The Albatross of Mixed Metaphor......

...is alive and well and roaming the hallowed halls of the BBC. A trailer for a Radio 4 documentary on global warming warned, “....we are on the precipice of a runaway train.”

Most listeners no doubt just laughed or said “Whisky Tango Foxtrot?!” or “What do they pay the editors for?”. Mitch Benn of the satirical sketch team on The Now Show turned it into a comic song. Here’s an extract:

I’m caught between the Devil and a hard place
Between the fire and the deep blue sea
Between a rock and the frying pan
What a terrible place to be

I kicked two birds with one bucket
Bit more bullets than I could chew
I burnt my bridges at both ends
That’s a pretty dumb thing to do

And now I’ve got a snowball’s chance in a handcart
I hope you’ll let me explain
I’m standing on the precipice
Of a runaway train

Now I’m hoist by my own line and sinker
Since I opened up a whole bag of cats
I put my nose out of joint on the grindstone
I don’t know why I did that

I took a bull by the china shop
I won’t do that again
Now I’m standing on the precipice
Of a runaway train

You can hear the whole thing on Listen Again, either by listening directly or by downloading the MP3 file to play on your iPod. The song starts 24 minutes into the 8 December edition. (The rest of the show is also good for a laugh, if you like satire on British/world news and politics). It’ll be available until Friday 15 December, when it will be replaced by the next edition.

By the way, the discussion on historical fantasy in the post below is still running. I just thought I’d better post this now so you all had a chance to go and listen before the programme expires!


Bernita said...

I love mixing metaphors.
It's usually intentional and with malice aforethought though - I hope...

Robyn said...

Thank you for the laugh. It reminds me of the commercial where a CEO is berating his staff.

"Come on, people. It's not rocket surgery!"

Carla said...

Bernita - if you mix a metaphor, you mix it so it stays mixed, as Raymond Chandler didn't say, yes? Don't worry, the intentional kind is usually obvious (like the song) - the absurd thing about the R4 trailer was that it clearly wasn't intentional.

Robyn - that's a great one, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Toronto once has a mayor given to mixing, mostly because his mind outran his mouth.
My favourite was "We're standing on a precipice and we have to take a giant leap forward!"

Blogger suddenly says my password doesn't match.

Carla said...

Bernita - Blogger does that now and then. Whatever one thinks of politicians, one has to appreciate them for the entertainment value :-) The Albatross of Mixed Metaphor has a similar origin, from a British politician (can't remember who) whoe described a problem dogging a colleague as "It's an albatross around his neck!"
Which mental image has stuck with me ever since :-)

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the albatross around the neck something to do with Coleridge's Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner? (thinks back to dark days of 'O' levels when we had to do that never ending poem for English lit. One of the crew shoots an albatross which is mortal bad luck, and the others all hang it around his neck as a punishment?

Elizabeth - logging in as anoymous because blogger's not recognising me.

Carla said...

Elizabeth - is Blogger sulking at you too? I hope it isn't locking everyone out! Many thanks to you and Bernita for taking the trouble to log in as Anonymous to comment.

You're quite right about the albatross in Coleridge's poem, though I hold up my hand and confess that I haven't read the whole thing and what I know of it is chiefly from parody :-) What made the politician's comment so funny was that it was in the context when he clearly meant "a millstone round his neck", but said albatross instead of millstone. Maybe he did Coleridge for O-level too! Then Steve Bell (I think) picked it up in some of his political cartoons and drew the Albatross of Mixed Metaphor hanging around the Dustbin of History, and I've never got the image out of my head :-)