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Idiotic Idioms, Mixed Metaphors, and Yogi (Berra)-isms · 11 May 2024


I love language. It is obviously the way we communicate, whether in oral or written form. And the way we communicate can be so interesting. Especially, when we communicate so colorfully. Especially, when we use idiotic idioms, mixed metaphors, and Yogi (Berra)-isms.


I already talked a little about idiotic idioms. You know. Those silly sayings we use that are supposed to communicate something in a unique or pleasing way. Packed in like sardines. Filled to the gills. Dead as a doornail. Idioms like these have been used for a long time, but people may not know their origins or they may not have as much universality as they used to. So they might not pack quite as much punch as they used to. But we still use them. And new ones are being made up, seemingly all the time.


Another interesting way we communicate is through metaphors. Those are the turns of phrase that color our communications. They are similar to or like similes, but different. (Similes usually use the word ‘like’ in their comparisons. Life is like a box of chocolates. That is a simile used by Forrest Gump. Over and over and over again. Or maybe people just quoted the character over and over and over again. At any rate, people mix up similes and metaphors, so I thought I would throw in a simile.) Metaphors make comparisons similar to similes, but they go one step further. They say that one thing is more than just like another. They say that the one thing is the other thing. Fútbol is life! That is a metaphor used by Dani Rojas in Ted Lasso. Over and over and over again.


Mixed metaphors are slightly different than regular metaphors. They convey meaning through an equality like metaphors do, but they do so in unpredictable and silly ways. Well, sometimes they convey meaning. Usually, not the meaning we want to convey. Although people can actually use mixed metaphors to great effect. My favorite mixed metaphor is: We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.



Think about it. Burning bridges is not something most people want to do. After all, the sense of the notion of burning bridges is that you cannot get back to where you were before. Whether that is a place (if you were taking things literally) or a job or a relationship, you do not usually want to burn bridges. So thinking about burning bridges when you get to them (whether instead of or after crossing them) is ludicrous. If you want to burn bridges before crossing them, you will obviously need to find another way to cross. If you want to burn the bridges after you cross them, I suppose you should make sure to leave behind only the people you want to thumb your nose at.


At any rate.


I like mixed metaphors, especially burning bridges, because they make people think about what you said. They wonder if they heard you right or not. Which means they are a good way to check to see if people are listening.


Which brings me to the person who had perhaps the best mixed metaphors and malapropisms (swapping one word for another, usually in a funny way, usually unintentional) or just funny quotes in history. Or at least he said enough funny stuff for people to continue to write about them. Yogi Berra was a great professional baseball player and manager. And he had a myriad of Yogi-isms. Those quotes that made you think about what he was saying. They often made those who heard the quotes wonder if they really heard what they thought he said.


“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“You can observe a lot by just watching.”
“It ain’t over till it’s over.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”


You can find Yogi-isms all over the internet. People are still writing about him decades after he said them. Probably because he was entertaining. Probably because they were true too. And, of course, people remember what he said because he was such a great baseball player, which gave him a forum for people to hear what he said in the first place.


Speaking of which. I am not sure where I was going, but I hope I got there.


I love language. And even though I am a native English speaker, I still wish I understood English better. After all, there will always be idiotic idioms, mixed metaphors, and Yogi-isms to both color the language and make us wonder if we really heard what we just heard.

© 2024 Michael T. Miyoshi

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