I’ve been looking for an excuse to vent my pet peeve against this phrase. This picture from the Nat Geo ‘Found’ Tumbler provided it.
I’m not sure why it strikes me so wrong, but it really grates against my nerves. Maybe its my linguistinc personification acting up, but ‘Maw’ just sounds unfinished and dirty to me. It is rarely ever unaccompanied by ‘Gaping’, which makes it seem weak and dependent . . .
It could also be that I saw it so frequently when critiquing submissions from novice writers at writingforums.org (which I love to do). It seems like every time there is a monster or a dark opening no one can think of any adjective-phrase other than ‘gaping maw’. Get creative people! Why not ‘fanged abyss’, ‘consuming void’ or ‘open gate to a voluminous eternal black’?
There’s nothing in particular wrong with the phrase, I guess. It just seems over-used, and gets under my skin.
Of course there are exceptions. The picture below is definitely of a gaping maw, and there’s no two ways about it.