Strike like a hot knife

Craig Wolfley, a color analyst for Steelers radio, was saying during the game that a penalty killed the Steelers’ momentum at a time when they needed to “strike like a hot knife”. This is a mashup of “strike while the iron is hot” (to make the most of an opportunity or favorable conditions while one has the chance to do so) and “like a hot knife through butter” (deal with a situation quickly and easily). The word “hot” seems to have tangled Mr. Wolfley’s tongue a little. A big thanks to Jack Kooser for hearing this and recognizing it as a malaphor.

It just smells of high heaven

Charlie Crist, who is challenging DeSantis for the Florida Governor position, said this regarding DeSantis’ immigrant stunt:

“The fact that he used state dollars, as far as we know thus far to the tune of over $600,000, to charter these planes, which sounds like an outrageous sum of money, but it’s state dollars that he’s utilizing for a political stunt,” said former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is challenging DeSantis in the governor’s race this year. “It just smells of high heaven.”

This is a mashup of “smells to high heaven” (to be or seem suspicious or corrupt) and “smells of (something) (to be strikingly suggestive of something). “Smells rotten” (again, something suspicious or corrupt) may also be in the mix. Maybe “High Heaven” is a cologne used by DeSantis? A big thank you to Tom Justice for spotting this one.

He’s a one-trick wonder

The speaker was watching America’s Got Talent with his family and was talking smack about one of the acts. This is a mashup of “one-trick pony” (a person who specializes in only one area or has only one talent) and “one-hit wonder” (a musician or band that only has one successful song during their musical career). Many thanks to Jonathan Eliot for sharing this one!

I’m working without a rope

This is a good example of an incongruent conflation (mix of two idioms that have opposite or unrelated meanings). The speaker was talking about making a meal from scratch and clearly meant “net” for “rope”. It is a mashup of “working without a net” (to take an action that is risky) and “teaching (one) the ropes” (to explain basic details in learning something). One idiom describes essentially free lance work and the other details or steps of work. “On the ropes” (to be near failure or collapse) might also be in the mix as the speaker was talking about being in a precarious position. A big thanks to Lou Pugliese for hearing this one (and Tom Justice for uttering it)!

We really stretch the envelope

Danny DeVito was talking about his new, dark animated show, “Little Demon” and uttered this malaphor. It is a congruent conflation of “stretch the rules”, “push the boundaries” and “push the envelope”, all meaning to test or exceed the limits of the established norm. A tip of the toque to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and sending it in.

Peace of quiet

The Facebook meme below ends with the words “peace of quiet”. At first blush this appears to be just a typo, but in fact is a nice mashup of “peace and quiet” (a period of calm) and “peace of mind” (a feeling of being safe or protected). A big thanks to Kathryn McCary for spotting this subtle malaphor.

Using all the tricks in their toolbox

This was heard on the MSNBC show, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. A guest on the show at the 43 minute mark said this mashup of “tricks up (one’s) sleeve” (a secret plan) and “tools in (one’s) toolbox” (additional skills or tactics one can use). “My Ol Pal” also suggests “tricks of the trade” is in the mix, and I agree, particularly given the context.

Another tip of the hat to Frank King for spotting this one!

He knows where all the skeletons are buried in the closet

This was heard on the MSNBC show, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. A guest on the show at the 41 minute mark said, “…Allen Weisselberg knows where all of the financial skeletons are buried in the closet.”

This is a mashup of “knows where (all) the bodies are buried” (to know a large amount of secret or scandalous information) and “skeletons in the closet” (shameful or embarrassing secrets). Both involve secrets and refer to the dead. A big thanks to Frank King for spotting this one!


Followers of malaphors know that a malaphor can be a word blend as well as an idiom blend (see the many word blends posted on this site by typing in “word blend”). This one made national news. Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate representing Pennsylvania, posted a video about shopping at “Wegners”. He clearly says Wegners in the video. However, he was in Redner’s, a grocery chain in Eastern Pennsylvania. He was confusing the store with Wegmans, another grocery chain found in Eastern Pennsylvania, creating the word blend Wegners.. Here is the video:

The word blend has gone viral, with postings from the fake grocery store Wegners. His opponent, John Fetterman, has capitalized on the goof:

This is not a portmanteau. Here’s the difference.

A portmanteau is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes, and their definitions, into one new word. A portmanteau word generally combines both sounds and meanings, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog. More generally, it may refer to any term or phrase that combines two or more meanings, for instance, the term “wurly” when describing hair that is both wavy and curly.

The word “portmanteau” was first used in this context by Lewis Carroll in the book Through the Looking-Glass (1871), in which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky, where “slithy” means “lithe and slimy” and “mimsy” is “flimsy and miserable”. Humpty Dumpty explains the practice of combining words in various ways by telling Alice,

‘You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.’

My single word blend malaphors are unconscious blends of words to make an unintentional new word. The word sounds or looks correct at first blush, but then on closer examination is incorrect. Examples so far on my website are “Buckminster Palace” (Buckingham and Westminster, and/or possibly Buckminster Fuller) and “split-minute decision” (split second and last minute).

He hasn’t been through the rodeo

Host Harvey Levin of TMZ was talking about Britney Spears’ husband, Sam Asghari, and his inexperience with the celebrity spotlight. Levin said, “and the current husband, kind of young, maybe kind of hasn’t been through the rodeo”. This is a mashup of “be put through the wringer” (subjected to some ordeal or difficulty) and “not (one’s) first rodeo” (one is experienced in a certain situation). In this case, the speaker was thinking of “his first rodeo” (inexperienced).

A big thanks to Vicki Kovacs for hearing this one!