Today he evened out the scales

This was uttered by Julia Ainsley on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes show.  She was referring to Manafort’s lawyer cross-examining Rick Gates.  It is a mashup of three idioms:  “even out” (to make something more balanced), “even the score” (avenge a wrong), and “balance the scales” (to make even).  A big thanks to Frank King for hearing this one and sending it in.


The President calls the ball

This delightful malaphor was uttered by Secretary of State Pompeo during a Senate hearing.  He was responding to a number of comments regarding the President’s rhetoric being inconsistent with what his subordinates are actually doing.  Here is the context:
“You basically have two different foreign policies in the United States, you have the foreign policy of the Trump administration and you have the foreign policy of President Trump himself,” historian Max Boot told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Thursday.
“What the President says and does is ultimately more important that what people underneath him are doing,” he continued. “They are not getting a unity of purpose and they are not getting a consistent message out because the President is completely at odds with his own government.”
Administration officials dismiss such commentary, either denying there is a gap between the President and his subordinates or insisting that he alone sets administration policy.
Pompeo faced repeated variations of this question during a fiery Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last month.
The President calls the ball. His statements are in fact policy,” Pompeo said. “This President runs this government. His statements are in fact US policy.”
This is a congruent conflation of “calls the shots” and “has the ball”, both meaning to be in command to make decisions.  “Calls the play” might also be in the mix.  My guess is that the speaker was also thinking of the idiom “calls the strikes and balls”, again meaning to make the decisions (like an umpire in baseball).  A shout out to Vicki Ameel-Kovacs for hearing this one on MSNBC and sharing it.

I’m just waiting for the next ball to drop

This was uttered in an interview.  It is a mash up of “wait for the other shoe to drop” (wait for the next seemingly unavoidable thing to happen” and “drop the ball” (make a mistake).  The speaker may have been thinking of the New Year’s Eve ball in Times Square, and waiting for it to drop to usher in the new year.  Or perhaps the Road Runner cartoon where the anvil eventually drop on his head.  “Drop” is the culprit here, appearing in both idioms.  This malaphor seems very appropriate these days in the U.S.  A big thanks to Sam Edelmann who heard this one and dropped it on me.

I’ve just spent the last thirty years busting my arse off

This mix up can be heard by Gordon Ramsay on his Masterclass trailer.  It is a congruent conflation of “worked my arse off” and “busted my ass”, both meaning to work very hard at something.  The former idiom is heard primarily in the UK, while the latter is heard mostly in the US.  This malaphor, then, is perhaps an “across the pond” blend?  Maybe Ramsay spent too much time in Hollywood.  The posterior seems to be popular in malaphors.  To see more, type “ass” in the search engine on the website.  You’ll see such classics as “he was drunk out of his ass” and “you need to get your ass together”.

A big thanks to Ben Glass who heard this one and sent it in.  You can hear the malaphor by clicking this link:


Now we get into the heat of the meat

Stephen Colbert, in his 7/25/18 monologue, uttered this one when discussing the Cohen tape on the Trump payoff of the McDougall matter.  Here’s the link to the video:

It is a mashup of “in the heat of the moment” (doing something without thinking) and “the meat of the matter” (the most important or essential element of an issue or problem).  “Heart of the matter” (same definition as “meat of the matter”) might also be in play, as “heart” and “heat” are similar in sound and looks.  A big thanks to Sam Edelmann for hearing this one and sending it in.

I set the die that day

Sean Spicer​, during an interview with the BBC, regretted his poor performance in discussing the size of the Trump inauguration crowd ​on his first day as Press Secretary.  he then uttered this classic.  It is a mashup of “set the tone” (establish the manner in which something will be conducted) and “the die is cast” (a course of action is finalized).  My guess is that the speaker was thinking of die casting, the process used to produce metal parts.  Given the amount of lies from Mr. Spicer’s boss’s lips in the past two years, I think he definitely set the die.

“My Ol’ Pal” has a slightly different take.  She says: “When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he was said to have stated “The die is cast,” meaning that he had decided the fate of Rome. Perhaps Sean Spicer was thinking that he had determined the future of the administration’s falsifications with his pronouncement about the size of the crowd at the inauguration.”  Indeed.  For the quote, see 3:55 mark at:

A big thanks to David Barnes for hearing this one and sending it in.

It’s sometimes not up to Hoyle

A reviewer was describing a new form and this malaphor was born.  It is a congruent conflation of “according to Hoyle” and “up to snuff”, both expressions meaning something that is to acceptable standards or rules.  The phrase “according to Hoyle” refers to 17th-Century British writer Edmond Hoyle, who wrote extensively on the rules of card games.  A big thanks to Mary Webster for sharing this one.