Tuesday, November 09, 2004

A Mona Lisa of mixed metaphor

It seems that the best grammarians are always political conservatives, two of the most notable being William Safire and James Kilpatrick. It makes sense. Editing and proscriptive grammar are fundamentally conservative pursuits. As a regular user of the English language, I know it lacks a convenient gender-neutral third-person pronoun and that this void will eventually be filled by the plural pronoun "they", but as an editor, I'll be damned if it's going to happen on my watch.

So while I probably wouldn't enjoy sharing a voting booth with Safire or Kilpatrick, I do enjoy their sensible musings on the language. And with this gorgeously awful sentence that Kilpatrick cites in his latest column as "a Mona Lisa of mixed metaphor, a plastic gem of purest ray serene", why not? Behold:
"All this worry about George W. Bush's 'goings-on' during the Vietnam War is a can of worms that the Republicans tried to crucify Clinton with that now has come back to bite them."

Just as gloriously terrible:
"Tea is no longer a stepsister to coffee, but has blossomed of its own accord into a swan."

(I first ran across these two sentences at A Capital Idea, a truly excellent blog on editing. I highly recommend it.)


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