The top ten: Mixed metaphors


John Rentoul
Sunday 16 March 2014 01:00 GMT
President Ahmadinejad: 'Wields axe to cement his position'
President Ahmadinejad: 'Wields axe to cement his position' (AFP/Getty Images)

'Mixed metaphors have been neglected in recent metaphor research,' according to an academic paper on artificial intelligence by the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. So I am grateful to Anthony Polson for suggesting this collection.

1. 'Ahmadinejad wields axe to cement his position' Independent headline, 14 December 2010.

2. 'It would open up a can of worms and a legal minefield about freedom, religion and equalities legislation… It may open up old wounds and put people into the trenches; no one wants that' David Burrowes, Conservative MP, on gay marriage, 17 January 2012.

3. 'Labour are fighting like rats in a barrel' Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP, 16 February 2014. Suggested by Steve Van Riel.

4. 'I don't like it. When you open that Pandora's box, you will find it full of Trojan horses' Ernest Bevin, Labour Foreign Secretary, on the idea of a Council of Europe, 1948. Nominated by Francis Wheen.

5. 'I'm kickstarting a drive to get employee ownership into the bloodstream' Nick Clegg, 17 January 2012. Thanks to James Chapman.

6. 'Far-right vacuum could trigger "lone-wolf" attacks' Independent headline, 29 December 2012. Errors & Omissions editor Guy Keleny had some fun trying to imagine the precise mechanism involved.

7. 'They've put all their eggs in one basket and it's misfired' Paul Merson, Sky football pundit, of West Ham's purchase of Andy Carroll. From Vincent Clark.

8. 'Out of the hat on Monday night the Home Secretary produced the rabbit, the temporary provisions Bill, as her fig leaf to cover her major U-turn' Simon Hughes, Lib Dem MP, 2008. Nominated by Saul Minaee.

9. 'To take arms against a sea of troubles,/And by opposing end them' Just to show that they are not always bad.

10. 'We're like the canary down the mine. We're the first people who pick up what's going on out there and what we're seeing at the moment is a boiling pot whose lid is coming off' Markos Chrysostomou, Haringey Citizens Advice Bureau, on the effects of cuts, 19 November 2012.

Next week: Genuine shop names (such as Sellfridges).

Coming soon: Fictional villains. Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in