A salesperson uttered this one, intending to say “time” instead of “wheels”. This is a nice congruent conflation of “wasting time” and “spinning (one’s) wheels”, both meaning to not use time productively. Car “wheels” can “spin” out if you accelerate quickly, and that visual may have been in the speaker’s mind when she spoke. A big thanks to Gary Kelly who heard this one and promptly recognized a nice juicy malaphor.
Normally I would pass this off as just using the wrong word, in this case body part, in an expression – hands for heads. However, in context it is indeed a malaphor. On the Clark Howard podcast from 4/13/2018, Clark was discussing the insurance industry’s slow response to entering the short-term rental (e.g., AirBnB) market. He had just said the insurance companies were sitting on their hands, then shortly thereafter said, “Most insurers are just burying their hands in the sand.” He quickly corrected himself, but unfortunately did not shout “Malaphor!” at that moment as he apparently is not a follower of this site. What about it, Clark? @clarkhoward This is a mashup of “”sitting on (one’s) hands” (taking no action) and “burying (one’s) head in the sand” (to avoid a situation pretending it does not exist). Both expressions involve inaction, contributing to the mixup. Also the words “sand” and “hand” rhyme which also could have a culprit. A big thanks to Debbie Rose who heard this one.
There is a local sports radio station here in Pittsburgh called “93.7 The Fan”. One of the commentators is Josh Miller, a former punter for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Josh was talking about how football players have trouble finding the excitement of the game after they retire or quit, and that it’s hard for them to “quench that itch”. This is a mashup of “quench that thirst” (to stop being thirsty) and “scratch an itch” (satisfy a need or desire). It’s possible that the speaker was thinking of “quashing” (repressing) something instead of quenching, but maybe dousing the itch with water does stop or repress it. By the way, Josh also uttered one of my favorite malaphors of all time, “he’s open game”, a mix of “open season” and “fair game”. https://malaphors.com/2017/08/05/hes-open-game-2/ Josh is unfortunately leaving 93.7 The Fan but we wish him the best and hope for more malaphors. Kudos to John Kooser for hearing this one and punting it in.
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My running partner uttered this one today. He was talking about having to complete something that was needed to be done for a long time. It is a mashup of “bite the bullet” (to do or accept something unpleasant) and probably “pull the plug” (to force something to end). “Pulling teeth” (to do something that is very difficult) also may be in play as the speaker may have conjured up “teeth” when he thought of “bite”. “Pull some strings” (to use the power or influence over others) might also have been in the speaker’s mind. Finally, malaphor follower Sally Adler suggested “pull the trigger” (make a decision). This certainly is a possibility given “bullet” in the other idiom. In fact, I believe this is the mashup as in context the speaker was talking about having to make a decision. Bravo Sally! Or perhaps he was thinking literally of a bullet puller, a device to safely remove a bullet from a gun. A big thank you to Dan Geier for unintentionally saying this one, recognizing it as a malaphor, and letting me post it.
When discussing a problem that they had been trying to troubleshoot for a rather long time, the submitter’s coworker exclaimed “At this point we’re just shooting ourselves in the dark!” This is a mashup of “shooting yourself in the foot” (to damage or impede’s one’s own plans) and “a shot in the dark” (a guess or estimate). The words “shoot” and “shot” are the culprits here. As the submitter, Ian, says, “Perhaps a bit darker than either taking shots in the dark or shooting ourselves in the feet, but it certainly got her point across.” This one reminds me of one of my favorite malaphors posted on this site, “It’s a crap in the dark.” https://malaphors.com/2012/12/26/its-a-crap-in-the-dark/. Now that’s dark!
A big thanks to Ian for sharing this one.
This gem was uttered by Donny Deutsch, American ad executive and television personality, on “Morning Joe”. He was referring to potential documents by Trump’s personal lawyer that could reveal past business dealings. It is a congruent conflation of “rock being turned over” and “onion being peeled back”, both meaning to uncover something that is concealed. This was uttered around Easter, so perhaps Mr. Deutsch had the resurrection image in his mind. Certainly the similar phrases “peeling back” and turning over” added to the confusion. A big thanks to Mike Kovacs for hearing this and sending it in.
This nice, subtle malaphor was uttered by Harry Litman, former US Attorney, on the MSNBC show Deadline: White House. Mr. Litman was talking about the Southern District of New York and its toughness on criminal activity, specifically referring to Michael Cohen’s possible involvement in criminal actions. It is a congruent conflation of “take no prisoners” and “give no quarter”, both meaning to show no mercy or compromise in pursuing one’s objectives. “Taking” and “giving” often get mixed up, it seems, as it is difficult sometimes to understand why one word is used and not the other. For example, the expression “I need to take a piss (or dump)” makes no sense to me as one is really “giving a piss (or dump)”, right? Conversely, the phrase “I don’t give a hoot (shit)” about something makes more sense if you “don’t take a hoot (shit)”. Word rant of the day. A big thanks to “my ol’ pal” Beatrice Zablocki for giving a hoot about malaphors and spotting this one.