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How would phrases such as "Does the pope sh*t in the woods? Does a bear wear a funny hat?" be classified? The closest I can get is "intentional malapropism". Thanks for your help.

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I would classify it as sacredly geographic and arboreal. –  Drew Aug 15 at 21:04
    
I prefer "Are bears Catholic?" –  Michael Aug 16 at 3:09

2 Answers 2

This is known as a mixed metaphor:

Mixed metaphor: a figure of speech combining inconsistent or incongruous metaphor

The specific phrase "Does the Pope shit in the woods?" (quoting The Big Lebowski) is listed on TV Trope's page dedicated to mixed metaphors, and is cited over at the Straight Dope message boards as well.

For fun, here's a long list of mixed metaphors.

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FWIW, with all deference to The Dude, that phrase predates both the film and The Dude (the real one). –  Drew Aug 15 at 21:34
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This is a very complicated case, @Drew. You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you's. –  Dan Bron Aug 15 at 21:37
    
I can't see anything metaphorical about the two questions that are combined here. –  Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 at 22:06
    
@Edwin, please see "Rhetorical questions as metaphors" on Wikipedia, which explains the relationship and gives both "Does a bear shit in the woods?" and "Is the Pope Catholic?" as specific examples. –  Dan Bron Aug 15 at 22:50
    
That's really stretching the classical definition of 'metaphor'. I can't find support for Wikipedia's analysis / terminology; I'd probably veer towards simile here (Earth is round as surely as Pope is Catholic). –  Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 at 23:21

As I see it, the two defining characteristics of phrases like the ones you mentioned are as follows.

  • They are rhetorical affirmations; the answer to the question is understood to be obviously "yes".
  • They are intentional malapropisms; you are mixing and matching portions of different rhetorical affirmations.

Therefore, they could be classified as intentionally malaproposed rhetorical affirmations.

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To be contrary, try using rhetorical negations, like "Does a duck-billed platypus have a bellybutton?" –  Ben Aug 15 at 21:06

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