Case 16: Of misplaced phrases and mixed metaphors

12th June 2002

Filed by: Officer Warner

The Offence

Thomas Gifford's novel The Wind Chill Factor
 -  [] [] (published in mass market paperback in 1994) includes this passage:

The 747 settled down through the night, floating through wisps of cloud like ack-ack from Long Island battlements.

The Verdict

In this sentence, ``like ack-ack'' is meant to describe the clouds. Unfortunately, the two active verbs, ``settled'' and ``floating'', hijack this phrase, turning it from an adjectival phrase (simile) into an adverbial phrase that modifies the two verbs, so the reader understands that the 747 is like ack-ack.

Secondly, ``ack-ack'' derives from World War 1 and later, while ``battlements'' carries a connotation of medieval warfare, leading to the impression of a mixed metaphor. ``Long Island anti-aircraft artillery'' would be better, but the whole sentence is such a mess, the only kind thing to do is to put it to death.

The Sentence

Fire the editor!

Next case!

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