He was always under his mother’s apron strings

This one was uttered by a nurse relating a story about someone.  It is a mash up of “tied to (one’s) mother’s apron strings” (dominated or dependent on one’s mother) and “under (someone’s) thumb” (dominated by someone).  Both expressions relate to domination, causing the confusion.  The speaker might have also conjured up the image of a child under his mother’s apron in the kitchen.  A big thanks to Steve Grieme for hearing this one and passing it on!

Did you like this one?  Check out the book on malaphors, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205.


Can’t you push some strings for me?

Ah, the old push/pull mix up.  This was heard in a drunken conversation.  It is a nice mash up of “pull some strings” (use influence with someone to get something done) and “push some buttons” (to do something exactly to get them to do what you want).  Perhaps “push (one’s) weight around” might also be in the mix as it concerns using one’s authority to get something done, similar in meaning to “pushing strings”.   Kudos to Trey Compton for hearing this one and passing it on!

Interestingly, “pushing on a string” does have a specific meaning, particularly in economics.  It is a figure of speech for influence that is more effective in moving things in one direction than another – you can pull, but not push.

If something is connected to someone by a string, they can move it toward themselves by pulling on the string, but they cannot move it away from themselves by pushing on the string. It is often used in the context of economic policy, specifically the view that “Monetary policy [is] asymmetric; it being easier to stop an expansion than to end a severe contraction.  Wikipedia.


They are ramroading this through the legislature

This is an excellent word blend congruent conflation of “ramrodding”  and “railroading”, both meaning to force passage or acceptance of something, such as a law or bill.   This mental mix up stems from two words that sound very similar and with the same meaning.  Perhaps “ramroading” is a really BIG effort to push a bill through the legislature!

As I have stated in previous blog posts, the word blend is a special kind of malaphor, not to be confused with a portmanteau.  The portmanteau is a combination of two words intentionally to create a new word, such as “smog”, which is a blend of “fog” and “smoke”.  A word blend is an unintentional mix of two words, creating a malaphor.  My favorite example is “Buckminster Palace”, a blend of Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace (with maybe Buckminster Fuller thrown in for good measure).  By the way, if you google that one you come up with multiple hits, making it a popular malaphor.

A big thanks to Andy Manatos for hearing this one and passing it on!

Did you like this word blend?  I have a whole chapter devoted to these mental hiccups in my book “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon now!  Ramroad a friend to get one today!

I just want to get under your feathers

This was a comment from a Facebook “friend”.  It’s a nice congruent conflation of “getting under your skin” and “ruffling your feathers”, both meaning to irritate or annoy someone.  This seems to happen a lot on Facebook, even among “friends”.  Props to Vicki Ameel-Kovacs, the reigning Malaphor Queen, who saw this one and passed it on.


To boil it down to a nut…

This gem was spoken by John Gruber, in an episode of his tech podcast The Talk Show.  You can hear it here, at around 2hr50sec: http://daringfireball.net/thetalkshow/2016/08/27/ep-165.  It is a nice mash up of “in a nutshell” (concisely) and “it boils down to” (condense or summarize).  Both phrases refer to the essence of something.   Boiled peanuts may also have been on the speaker’s mind.   In the southern states of the U.S.  you can see lots of signs for these “acquired taste” snacks.  A big thanks to Peter Hopkins for hearing this one and sending it in.

Like this one?  Try the book “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors” available on Amazon!  It’s the top of the notch!


Put their nose to the wire

At a recent settlement conference the speaker meant to say, “hold their feet to the fire” but instead heard herself saying, “put their nose to the wire”.  So where to start on this multi-mixed idiom blend?  First, wire rhymes with fire so that must have been in the speaker’s mind.  Second, since it was a settlement agreement, perhaps “hold their noses” (to attempt to avoid something unpleasant) was on her mind.  As time is usually of the essence in a case, “down to the wire” (until the last possible moment) may also have been swirling around her brain.  “Put your nose to the grindstone” (to keep busy doing work) was probably also bubbling to the surface, considering the tenacious nature of settlement conferences.  Finally, horses win often by a nose at the wire so that image could also have been in the thought process.  A big thanks to Polly McGilvray for saying and sharing this multi-faceted malaphor!


It’s the carrot at the end of the tunnel

Two guys were told that part of their pay would be made when their work was successfully delivered.  They were told to consider it “the carrot at the end of the tunnel”.  This is a nice mash up of “light at the end of the tunnel” (the end of a difficult period or job) and “carrot on a stick” (reward that is promised as an incentive to complete a task).   This malaphor is probably caused by carrots and sticks having similar shapes.  And maybe Bugs Bunny sitting in a tunnel pulling carrots underground?  A big thanks to Bob Newstadt for hearing this one and passing it on.  An additional shout out to his quick-witted friend Nax Paul Mendler for responding to the speaker with, “don’t you mean the light at the end of the stick?”

If you enjoyed this mixed idiom, you will love my book “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, now available on Amazon at  http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205.