Unless it’s razor close

Political pundit David Plouffe on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell was talking about voters in swing states, and votes coming in on Election Day. He said that “…unless it’s razor close, we are going to know…” who the winner is on election night. This is a mashup of “razor- thin” (very thin) and “too close to call” (a margin too narrow to make a decision). Both describe narrow measurements. The speaker may have been thinking of his razor giving himself a close shave. Whatever. It’s a great malaphor, and a big thanks to Frank King for hearing it and passing it on.

He is head in with his work

Some friends were discussing a friend’s recent concentration on work. This is a mashup of “head on” (directly, without hesitation) snd “all in” (fully committed to a task or endeavor). “Head down” (avoid attention or trouble) might also be in the mix. Perhaps the speaker was indicating his friend was not only focused on work but also in staying out of trouble? A big thanks to Ben Geier for uttering this one and Kevin Hatfield for hearing it and sending it in.

All of that goes out of the water

Hallie Jackson, NBC correspondent, said this one on MSNBC, referring to political messaging in the time of a pandemic. It is a conflation of “goes out the window” (disregarded or forgotten) and I believe “blown out of the water” (destroy something or someone completely). “Blows” and “goes” rhyme, and both phrases refer to getting rid of something. A big thanks to Bruce Ryan for hearing this one and sending it in!

My faith in our political system has been blown to ribbons

Husband and wife were having a discussion concerning the Trump administration and this was blurted out. It is a congruent conflation of “blown to bits” and “torn/cut to ribbons”, both meaning to destroy something. A tip of the hat to John Kooser for sending this one in.

Push the can forward

Discussing the Covid bailout package, Sibile Marcellus from Yahoo News said this nice malaphor on MSNBC. It is a good example of an incongruent conflation (blend of two idioms with opposite meanings), mashing up “kick the can down the road” (postpone or defer action) and “push forward” (to progress). A shout out to Frank King for hearing this one.

Donald Trump has kind of walked right into Biden’s hands

Savannah Guthrie on the Today Show was discussing the upcoming date of the debate. This is a congruent conflation of ” walked/fell into a trap” and “play (right) into (one’s) hands”, both meaning to unwittingly do exactly what one wants in order for one’s plans to succeed. Of course, this could be deadly given the virus and Trump being contagious. A big thanks to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and sending it in.

It was driving energy prices through the sky

Another from the Malaphorer-in-Chief, and this time uttered in the recent Presidential “debate” (I put that in quotes as it did not resemble in any way a debate).  Mr. Trump responded to the moderator’s question about why he rolled back the Clean Power Plan, a set of Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency regulations designed to curb planet-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants, by saying they were sending energy prices skyward. In fact, most of the Clean Power Plan was never implemented: it was temporarily halted by a 2016 Supreme Court order and never reinstated before the Trump administration effectively rolled it back last year.  https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/09/29/us/debate-fact-check

This is a congruent conflation of “through the roof” and “go sky-high”, both meaning for prices to become very high.  A shout out to Jake Holdcroft who heard this gem and passed it on.  


Bleeding the cow

This rare comment was noticed in an online comment.  The commenter was talking about Attorney General Barr’s undermining the confidence in voting by mail, and the desperation of Trump and his minions to stay in power so that they can benefit financially.  This is a congruent conflation of “milking the cow” and “bleeding/milking (something) dry”, both meaning to take as much of something from someone or something as possible.  “Cash cow” (an investment that generates a lot of income) may also be in the mix, considering the context.  A big thanks to Ron MacDonald for spotting this one.

He’s the guy that cracks the numbers

Bill Maher said this one on his show last week, referring to Nate Silver’s analysis of the election and why people should listen to him.  It is a mashup of “crunch the numbers” (performs numerous calculations) and “crack the code” (solve a difficult problem or mystery).  “Crunching” and “cracking” are both similar sounding words (lots of onomatopoeia going on here), contributing to the merry mixup.  A code usually involves numbers, so that might have been swirling in the speaker’s brain at the time.   Another tip of the crack to Mike Kovacs who heard this one.

Straight from the hip/Shoot from the shoulder

I am discussing these two malaphors together as they were uttered on the same topic and they are mashups of similar idioms.  The first, “straight from the hip”, was spoken on the Nicole Wallace show, Deadline: White House, during a discussion about Biden’s town hall and that he was speaking “straight from the hip”.  “Straight from the shoulder” (simple, direct, and forthright) is what the speaker meant to say, and this was mixed with  “shoot from the hip” (to speak rashly or recklessly).  The phrases are almost opposites, making this an excellent example of an incongruent conflation (unintentional blend of two or more idioms with opposite meanings).

The second malaphor, “shoot from the shoulder”, was uttered by Joe Biden at his town hall (and this is the phrase MSNBC had latched on in the malaphor above).  Herer is the quote:

“You’ve got to level with the American people — shoot from the shoulder. There’s not been a time they’ve not been able to step up. The president should step down,” the Democratic presidential nominee said to applause from a CNN drive-in town hall crowd Thursday night in Moosic, outside his hometown of Scranton.


This is also a mashup of “straight from the shoulder” and “shoot from the hip”, another incongruent conflation.  Body parts and alliteration are all responsible for these mixups.  A big thank you to Bruce Ryan, Pamela Pankey, John Pekich, and Kathy Meinhardt for all spotting the malaphor.