Old dogs rarely change their spots

Sometimes my malaphor scouts come across a juicy one in one of the books they are reading.  That’s what happened when Steve Hubbard discovered this gem in the “Hour Game” by David Baldacci.  Sean King, a major character in the book, utters this mash up:

“If I told you we had information they’d had a knock-down-drag-out three or four years ago over Bobby’s sleeping around, would that surprise you?”  “No. He had that reputation. Some people thought he was over it, but old dogs rarely change their spots.”

This is a mash up of  “a leopard doesn’t change its spots” (a person’s character, especially if it is bad, will not change, even if they pretend it has)  and ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” (it is difficult to make someone change the way they do something when they have been doing it the same way for a long time).  Both expressions describe people set in their ways, making this a congruent conflation.  And of course Mr. King was referring to that old two timin’ dog Bobby.  Thanks again to Steve Hubbard for passing this one along!

Dalmatian The Black Spotted Dog


I slept like a dog last night

Dogs sleep pretty soundly, but this is definitely a malaphor.  It is a mash up of “slept like a log (or baby)” (restful sleep)  and “let sleeping dogs lie” (do not instigate trouble).  Nice mix up as it involves assonance (log, dog, and lie, like) and similar words in the phrases (sleep, dog).  This beauty was uttered by John Costello, one of my roving malaphor reporters!

Beschreibung Sleeping dog 98a.jpg


Don’t wake up a sleeping dog

Here is another beaut from the sports world.   Miami Heat center Chris Bosh, commenting on Lance Stephenson of the Pacers trash-talking Lebron James said,  “Don’t wake up a sleeping dog. That’s a lesson I learned a long time ago.”   This is a great mash-up of “let sleeping dogs lie” (leave something alone that may cause trouble) and “don’t wake a sleeping giant”   (something powerful that is not dangerous unless provoked).  Confusion lies in the common word “sleeping” and that some dogs can be dangerous if provoked.   A big shout out to Justin Taylor for catching this one!  Reference is below:
Source here: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2014-05-25/sports/fl-miami-heat-main-0526-20140525_1_lebron-james-lance-stephenson-stephenson-and-james

Give the dog his due

This delightful saying is a mash up of “give credit where credit is due”, “give the devil his due”,  and “every dog has its day”.   Perhaps there is a homonym mix up here as well, as in “dog doo”?  Who knows what lurks in the subconscious mind?  A shout out to Bill B. who heard this one from Dr. Marty Kraus.


Let dead dogs sleep

Cover of "Anguished English: An Anthology...

Cover via Amazon

This is a conflation of “let sleeping dogs lie” (leave something alone that might cause trouble) and I think “don’t beat a dead horse” (don’t waste time doing something that has already been attempted).   When you mix dogs with horses, and sleeping with lying and dying, you get this malaphor.  This one comes from Richard Lederer‘s  Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon the English Language, rev. ed. Wyrick, 2006.