I need to catch my bearings

A person was getting overwhelmed trying to do too many things at once.  He then blurted out that “I need to stop and catch my bearings.”  This is a mashup of “get my bearings” (figure out one’s position relative to one’s surroundings) and “catch my breath” (relax, take a break).  “Bearings” and “breath” start with a “b”, causing the malaphor.  Also, both phrases indicate someone pausing before proceeding.  A big thanks to John Kooser for hearing this one and passing it on.

If you enjoyed deconstructing this mixup you will love my book on malaphors, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon.  Catch your bearings and then head to your computer to order it for a cheap 6.99.


Will it pay fruit?

“The Master of Malaphors” Chris Matthews said this beauty on his show on June 13, talking about Cohen possibly flipping on Trump.  It is a congruent conflation of “pay off”, “pay dividends”, and “bear fruit”, all meaning to yield positive benefits or results. Let the flipping begin, and see the many bananas and apples appear.

By the way, loyal followers might cry foul on this one as I posted this malaphor last November.  True, but when “The Master” speaks, I must post.  A big thanks to “Hawkear” Frank King for hearing this one.

I think we can tighten our pencil a bit

An architect was discussing changing pricing during negotiations and uttered this malaphor.  I believe it is a combination of “sharpen our pencil” (give a good deal) and “tighten up” (to become more restrictive or miserly). “Crunch the numbers” (doing calculations) might also be in the mix, although it doesn’t fit within the context.  Yvonne Shipley suggests “tighten our belts” might also have been on the speaker’s mind.  I think that is very possible.  A shout out to Jim Washabaugh for hearing this one and passing it on!

Shudder in its tracks

This was found in the Ars Technica website, a site covering news and opinions in technology, science, and politics.  Here is the full quote:

“That ruthlessly efficient system helped bubonic plague kill nearly 25 million people and made the ancient world shudder in its tracks during the Justinian plague of 541–542.”

It is a conflation of “shudder to think” (afraid to think about something as it may be unpleasant) and “stop/freeze/halt (someone or something)(dead) in its tracks” (suddenly stop because something has frightened or surprised you).  Considering the context, the author might have been thinking about death and the word “dead” may have been floating around in the head, spewing out “in its tracks”.  A big thanks to Barry Eigen for spotting this one.  Barry said the malaphor also reminded him of the expression “shaking (shivering) in their boots”.  Me too!

I hope my omelet is not bone cold

Not sure if the speaker thought his omelet would be dry or cold or both, but this is a nice mashup of “stone cold” (unfeeling) and “dry as a bone” (completely dry).  I think “chill(ed) to the bone” (very cold) is also in the mix, as bones often get cold, particularly when scared.  A big thanks to John Ries for unintentionally saying this one and Kevin Hatfield for spotting the malaphor.

Trying to lighten the elephant in the room

This is a great image and a terrific malaphor.  It was uttered unintentionally by someone describing an awkward date.  She tried to engage in small talk, and related the following to a friend:

“I said, ‘I love the mountains so much, especially at night,’ trying to lighten the elephant in the room.”

This is a mashup of “the elephant in the room” (obvious problem no one wants to discuss) and “lighten the mood” (trying to cheer everyone up).  “The elephant in the room” seems to be a common expression mix-up.  For example, I have posted:

“It’s the 800 pound elephant in the room”

“I think that’s the pink elephant in the room”

“The white elephant in the room”

In fact, I have a separate section devoted to the “elephant malaphor” in my book, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon.

A tip of the hat to Sydney Bergeson for hearing this one and sending it in!

Narc out

Another gem from Rachel Maddow, the “Mistress of Malaphors”.   She uttered this on her Friday, June 8, 2018 show, discussing the indictment of Konstantin Kilimnik and his past relations with the International Republican Institute:

Well, now those new felony charges today have been filed. Instead of
facing 23 felony charges, Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman, is
now facing 25 felony charges. What ended up being the big surprise here
today is that Paul Manafort wasn`t just charged alone, the superseding
indictment wasn`t just for him, he was charged alongside Konstantin
Kilimnik, Kostya from the GRU, the guy who back in the day in Moscow was
suspected of narcing out this American pro-democracy outfit that the FSB
denounced as an enemy of the state after they somehow got a hold of the
internal workings of that organization.

This is a congruent conflation of “narc on” and “rat out”, both meaning to give authorities information on a crime, or to inform on someone.  A big thanks to Frank King for hearing this one and sending it in.