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!



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