He has a chip in his cap

Joey Galloway, a commentator on ESPN, said this at the University of Washington vs. UCLA game during halftime. From the context it appears he was trying to say “feather in his cap”. This is a mashup of “feather in (one’s) cap” (a success or achievement) and “hold all the chips” (have complete control over a matter). A big thank you to Lin Sewell for hearing this one and sharing it.

I hope to hit the ball rolling tomorrow

This one was picked up on a Facebook post. The author was talking about being jet-lagged but hoping to get going the next day:

This is a mashup of “hit the ground running” (to begin something energetically) and “get the ball rolling” (get the process started). Both idioms involve starting something. My guess is that jetlag was still an issue when this was written.

A big thanks to Yvonne Stam, a terrific malaphor hunter, for spotting this one in the social media weeds.

He doesn’t hold any punches

The speaker was referring to John Fetterman, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania and currently running for the U.S. Senate.

“He’s a straight shooter,” said Mr. Fischer, 61. “I mean, he tells you what he is going to do, he doesn’t hold any punches, he doesn’t play games. We support the positions that he supports.”


This is a congruent conflation of “not pull any punches” and “not hold back”, both meaning to speak very bluntly and directly. A big thanks to me for spotting this in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

They’re not the sharpest candles

This one was heard on the FX series, “Justified” (Season 1, Episode 5). Raylan is talking to Perkins about his feud with his Dad, Arlo. Perkins then referred to his nephews saying “I know they’re not the sharpest candles.” This is a congruent conflation of “not the sharpest tool” and “not the brightest candle”, both describing someone who is not intelligent or dim-witted. As regular malaphor followers of this website know, there are many similar malaphors uttered, mainly because of the many idioms describing someone who is not very smart. Some examples: “not the brightest tool in the shed” https://malaphors.com/2013/06/24/not-the-brightest-tool-in-the-shed/, “I’m not the smartest bulb in the room” https://malaphors.com/2021/01/29/im-not-the-smartest-bulb-in-the-room/, and “I’m not the sharpest tack in the drawer” https://malaphors.com/2021/01/29/im-not-the-smartest-bulb-in-the-room/. There are many others (I think I need a new category. This is not rocket surgery). A big thank you to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and sending it in!

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) – The Walking Dead – Season 4 _ Gallery – Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

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.