They go together like oil and ice

This is a wonderful congruent conflation (a malaphor involving two phrases with the same meaning) of  “oil and water don’t mix” and “like fire and ice”, both meaning opposites or not getting along.   The expression “they are like two peas in a pod” has the opposite meaning but could have first jumped into the speaker’s brain as she started out by saying “they go together”.  However, the context was a discussion about two co-workers who did not get along and bickered a lot, hence the confluence of similar meaning phrases.  A big thanks to Elissa who posted this gem to the website!

What does happen when oil and ice come together?  Well, says the following:

Both oil and ice can be slippery, but this is where the similarity ends. Oil and ice have very little in common. Actually, oil doesn’t like ice, or more specifically melted ice, water. Oil is known as hydrophobic, meaning that it repels water. When you put the ice cube in the oil it begins to melt. It doesn’t mix with the oil because oil is hydrophobic. This explains why the oil and water don’t blend together, but this doesn’t explain why the water goes to the bottom of the cup and why the ice floats at the top of the cup. This is all comes back to density, or how much stuff is in an object. If something is denser than something else, it will sink. Water is denser than oil; that’s why water sinks to the bottom of the glass. Ice, however, is a funny solid. When water freezes and turns to ice, it actually takes up more space than it did when it was water, but it has the same amount of stuff in it. This means it is less dense than water. That’s why ice cubes float in your water glass. Since ice is less dense than water, the water settles to the bottom. Since the ice is less dense than water and therefore less dense than oil, it floats at the top.

ice in oil

We have to keep our finger on the ball

This beauty was heard on a conference call by Gary Kelly, a faithful malaphor follower.  It is a congruent conflation of “finger on the pulse”  and “eyes on the ball”, both involving attention and monitoring something.    The mash up also conjures up the image of Lucy keeping her finger on the football and letting go just as Charlie Brown goes to kick it. This is another malaphor mixing body parts, something that seems to happen frequently.   A big thanks to Gary Kelly!

He pulled the wool out from under me

This is a classic, perfectly formed malaphor, as it confuses two similar sounding idioms – “pull the wool over his eyes” (to deceive someone) and “pull the rug (out) from under him” (suddently take away help or support from someone).  Both phrases have the word “pull” in them, and both have direction – over and under.  Also adding to the mix is the combination of wool and rug – a wool rug.   A big thanks to the sharp ears of Sam Edelmann, who heard this one and passed it on.

Image result for he pulled the wool over my eyes

That’s water over the bridge

Senior Malaphor Hunter Mike Kovacs heard this one on NBC Dateline.  He said the following when hearing the mash up:  “Hearing it made me leap to grab my phone. (Actually, I didn’t really need to leap; it was within an arm’s length.) And you can quote me on that.”  So I am.  This malaphor is actually a very commonly spoken one. It is a congruent conflation of “water over the dam” and “water under the bridge”, both meaning to describe something that is over and done with, especially an unfortunate occurrence.  The malaphor is very similar to a previous posting, “water under the dam” – see  Everyone seems to confuse these idioms, considering that one is under and the other is over, one involves dams and the other bridges, and both involve water.  My picture doesn’t help matters….  A big thanks to Mike Kovacs for this one!




He’s just an old stick in the poke

This beauty was uttered in response to someone asking the speaker why her husband didn’t come to a brunch.  It is a mash up of “stick in the mud” (dull or old fashioned person) and “slow poke” (slow person).  Thanks to Polly McGilvray for sending this one in!

They kept him instead of cutting him free

My wife is a big Georgetown University basketball fan.  She was relating a story about Tyler Adams, a huge recruit a few years ago who subsequently was diagnosed with arrhythmia and could not play competitive basketball.  Instead of dropping his scholarship, the University gave him a medical waiver.  He stayed on the team and earned his degree.  My wife said, “they kept him instead of cutting him free.”  We looked at each other and realized it was a malaphor moment, and I wrote it down immediately so I wouldn’t forget (the good ones tend to fade away…).  This is a congruent conflation of “cutting him loose” and “setting him free”, both meaning to let go.  The link contains a very nice story of Adams and his final regular season game as a Hoya:

Tyler Adams



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