A metaphor is often used to conjure up a visual image to illustrate an abstract idea in a concrete way. In his essay Politics and the English Language (1946), George Orwell wrote that when someone mixes their metaphors, it is a sign that they are merely cobbling together words and phrases that sound good to them without paying attention to what they are saying. Matt Taibbi has hilariously highlighted the many occasions when New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman does this.
But a few days ago, I came across a real doozy of a mixed metaphor by someone described as a former senior Trump administration official who was explaining why Senate Republicans were unwilling to step out of line and criticize Donald Trump. The official said, “Nobody wants to be the zebra that strays from the pack and gets gobbled up by the lion. They have to hold hands and jump simultaneously.”
My mind immediately tried to imagine zebras holding hands and jumping together, though how that would enable them to escape a marauding lion was not clear to me.
I cannot imagine that even Friedman would descend to such depths.