“Dying Metaphors”

A ‘dead’ metaphor has effectively reverted to being an ordinary word.. Dying metaphors [or] worn-out metaphors have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves.
Examples are:

  • Ring the changes on,
  • take up the cudgel for,
  • toe the line,
  • ride roughshod over,
  • stand shoulder to shoulder with,
  • play into the hands of,
  • no axe to grind,
  • grist to the mill,
  • fishing in troubled waters,
  • on the order of the day,
  • Achilles’ heel,
  • swan song,
  • hotbed.

Many are used without knowledge of their meaning (e.g. ‘rift’), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed.

Source: “Political Language” by George Orwell