Push the bar

A participant on the television program “Say Yes to the Dress” was referring to her desire to raise her standards when selecting a wedding dress and said “push the bar”.  This is a conflation of “push the envelope”  (exceed the limits of what is normally done) and “raise the bar” (raise or exceed the standards of quality that are expected).  It is close to a congruent conflation, as both idioms describe exceeding a standard.   My guess is that the verbs “push” and “raise” caused the mental confusion.

A big thanks to Chief Malaphor Hunter (CMH) Mike Kovacs for submitting this one for a friend.

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It’s as clear as a bone this morning

That was the weather report from local channel KDKA in Pittsburgh yesterday.  This is a mash up of “as dry as a bone” (extremely dry) and “clear as a bell” (very clear).  The weatherman was discussing a very clear and dry (little humidity) day and managed to describe both in one nice malaphor!  I think this should be in our standard lexicon to describe those beautiful clear, dry days, don’t you?  Hats off to Bill Shaffer who heard this beauty.


Some are riding the fence

This well-crafted mixed idiom appeared in the Washington Post.  The author, Callum Borchers, was discussing the issue of where Republicans who are seeking office stand on supporting Donald Trump.  “In future elections, Republicans seeking office will have to answer an important question: Where did you stand on Donald Trump?  Some seem acutely aware of this looming litmus test and are riding the fence.”


This is a mash up of “sitting on the fence” (not taking sides in a dispute) and “riding it out” (continue working through something unpleasant or dangerous).  The author might also have been thinking of “riding the pine” (in sports, to remain sitting on the bench), as it involves sitting.  In researching this curious malaphor, I found that the idiom actually is used in St. Maarten.  On that beautiful island, the airport is situated right off the beach. Tourists hold onto a fence as the planes take off and land just feet above them, hence the expression “riding the fence.”

A tip of the hat to frequent malaphor contributor John Costello for spotting this one and sending it on!

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Hillary Clinton is in the process of refudiating everything that Mr. Trump says

This nice word blend malaphor was uttered by Sean Jackson, chairman of the Florida Black Republican Caucus and Trump supporter, on MSNBC’s Hardball.  Mr. Jackson stated, “Hillary Clinton is in the process of refudiating everything that Mr. Trump says by trying to make him out to be the bigot.” See http://www.msnbc.com/transcripts/hardball/2016-08-26

This is a mash up of “repudiating” (rejecting the validity or authority) and “refuting” (proving or saying that something is not true).   Word blend malaphors are an interesting subset of idiom blend malaphors.  There are quite a few posted on this website.  A shout out to Sam Edelmann who heard this one and passed it on!

If you liked this malaphor from the political world, you will want to get the book “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon!  There is a whole chapter devoted to mash ups from politics.


I’m going to move out and fly the nest

This one seems appropriate for this time of year when kids are leaving for college.   That’s exactly what led to this nice malaphor uttered by a smart and talented young lady leaving for college.  It is a conflation of “fly the coop” (to escape or to get away) and “leave the nest” (to leave your parents’ house and live independently).  Both phrases involve leaving from somewhere, and coops are where chickens live and have nests, hence the confusion of coops and nests.  A big thanks to Marianne Julian for hearing this one from her daughter and passing it on!

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He is getting paid under the pocket

This malaphor is a mash up of “getting paid under the table” (money paid secretly and illegally) and perhaps “out of pocket” (lacking money) because it refers to money.  However, there might be other idioms at play here.  “Lining one’s own pockets” might be in the mix, as it means making money for oneself in a greedy or dishonest fashion.  Certainly money under the table is taken dishonestly.  “Money burns a hole in one’s pocket” could also be in the speaker’s mind, as it refers to someone who spends money as soon as it is earned.   Then there is “pocket money” (cash for incidental expenses) again referring to finances.  Actually, there are a lot of phrases involving pockets that refer to money.  The speaker might also have been thinking of a game of pool, which involves a table and pockets.  And that gets me to the phrase “pocket pool”, which I will refrain from defining as this is a G rated website (at least sometimes).    Kudos to Vicki Ameel-Kovacs for hearing this one and sending it in!

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Can someone help us without going through all these hoops and whistles?

It’s hard to keep track these days of all those bells, hoops, whistles, and hurdles.  This gem was written in an email expressing frustration.   It is a mash up of “jumping through hoops” (having to do extra things in order to do something you want) and “bells and whistles” (fancy add-ons or gadgets).  Both phrases refer to “extra things” which I think is the cause of the conflation.  Also, perhaps the writer had an image of a dog jumping through a hoop, and being trained by a whistle?  A tip of the hat to Paula Fow Atchison, who saw this one and passed it on.