That’s a blaring red siren

Rachel Maddow uttered this one on her podcast the other night. It is a congruent conflation of “a big red flag” and “sirens blaring”, both meaning warning signs. Sirens aren’t red, Rachel.

Here’s the link to the podcast (malaphor heard at 6:35 minute mark):

A big thanks to Frank King who heard this one and sent it in.

The cookies will come home to roost

This one is apt for the holidays. An old Headmaster at an English secondary school was addressing the boys regarding hair length and poor behavior. He then uttered the immortal line, “… and if this rule is not abided by, then the cookies will come home to roost, that I promise!” This is a mashup of “the chickens come home to roost” (one’s previous actions are about to have consequences for oneself) and “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” (there is nothing we can do about the way things have unfolded). He might also have been thinking that some of the boys were “tough cookies” (strong, determined person not easily intimidated). Then again, he might have been thinking of cooking a chicken for that evening’s dinner. A big thanks to James Aidan Coen for sending this one in!

I smoked the water

Someone was bragging about how well he did in a competition. This is a congruent conflation of “smoked it” and “blew it out of the water”, both meaning to perform extremely well in something. Perhaps the speaker was also thinking of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”, and/or his old water pipe. A big thanks to “happyquack” for sending this one in.

I am up against the gun

This one was heard on a conference call. The speaker was talking about a short deadline to get something accomplished. It is a congruent conflation of “up against the wall” and “under the gun”, both describing a difficult situation where there is pressure to act. The confusion seems to lie with the prepositions “up” and “under”. Preposition mixups are common in the malaphor world. Check my website and/or books for more on this phenomenon.

A tip of the hat to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one!

My hot water works on a dime

This beauty was found on a facebook post:

May be an image of text that says 'Sometimes I forgot how rich I am. My hot water works on a dime, my a/c works when I need it too, can go to any grocery store & purchase what I please to eat, I have a clean kitchen to cook in, have a clean shower to bath in...sometimes I forget im beyond blessed'

It is a nice mashup of “works like a charm” (works very well) and “turns on a dime” (to turn very quickly or to change opinion abruptly). “On a dime” refers to agile precision, so it is close to a congruent conflation with both phrases referring to something working very well. As Tate Young says, with inflation the phrase now might be ‘works on a quarter”. A big thank you to Jenny Hensley for spotting this excellent malaphor and sending it in.


A supervisor used this term to illustrate a difference in data, e.g., actual v. projected manhours. It is a word blend of “disparity” and “discrepancy”. 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 found on my website include “Buckminster Palace” (Buckingham and Westminster, and/or possibly Buckminster Fuller) and “split-minute decision” (split second and last minute). A word blend malaphor is different than a portmanteau. First, portmanteaus are intentional word blends while word blend malaphors are unintentional. Also, 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. Check out my website for more word blend malaphors by typing in “word blend” in the search function.

Note: the word “disparency” does appear in Wiktionary but in no other dictionary I could find. The word blend malaphor has perhaps become so common in recent times as to become a part of the English lexicon. However, for now, I call this a bonafide malaphor! A big thanks to Skip Kennedy for sending this one in!

I get touched up just talking about that

There was an article in the Washington Post recently about golfer Collin Morikawa and his win at the DP World Tour Championship (November 2021). He was talking about making 7 straight birdies to overtake Rory McIlroy for the lead, saying, “It’s special. I get touched up just talking about that.” This is a nice congruent conflation of “being touched by (something/someone)” and being “choked up”, both meaning to have strong, tender emotions about something/someone. No , no fondling here. A tip of the toque to David Barnes for spotting this one and sending it in.

Do not pull back on your guard

Wise words spoken by Dr. Anthony Fauci, discussing the new COVID variant, omicron, and the need to be fully vaccinated. He said this on NBC’s Weekend Today. This is a nice mashup of “pull back” (to back away, retreat) and “be on (one’s) guard” (to be especially vigilant). Check out the last line of this article for the malaphor:

A big thanks to Donna Doblick for spotting this one and sending it in!

That was a pretty good trick that she pulled out of her sleeve

This is another malaphor brought to you by the show Seven Little Johnstons. The mom was talking this time.  It is a nice mash up of “trick up her sleeve” (secret advantage) and “pull a rabbit out of her hat” (to do something surprising or seemingly impossible).  Both idioms concern the element of surprise, and both involve tricks or magic. Also in the mix is the R rated “pulled it out of her ass”, also meaning to something surprising or seemingly impossible. This one is similar to a previous post: “she needs to pull a trick out of her hat”, spoken at the Winter Olympics. See

A big thanks to Mike Kovacs for spotting this one and sending it in. And here’s the clip:

It’s a dumpster f**k

This was heard on an Instagram video post. It is a nice congruent conflation of “dumpster fire” and “cluster f**k”, both referring to a chaotic situation. Both are fairly new idioms in the English language, making this malaphor timely. A tip of the hat to Anthony Kovacs for spotting this one and sending it in!