That’s a whole different ball of fish

This is a mix of two phrases with the same meaning – “different ball of wax” and “different kettle of fish” (completely different or not at all similar).   Fish ball soup might also be in the unconscious here (see picture).   This type of malaphor involving phrases with the same or similar meanings is also referred to as a congruent conflation and is usually the most commonly uttered malaphor (and usually the best).  Loyal follower David Spain unintentionally blurted this one out and referred it here.  Thanks David!

Fish Ball Soup ~ Overseas Pinoy Cooking

He’s a wet fish

This great malaphor is a blend of”wet blanket” and “cold fish”, both reflecting rather sour personalities, the former a depressing person who spoils others’ enjoyment, and the latter a person who does not seem very friendly and shows little emotion.  Fish of course are always wet (unless grilled I suppose) which may have been in the speaker’s mind as well.  For some reason a dead fish handshake also seems in play here.  I personally am going to start using this expression as there are people out there who fit both categories.  John Costello gets the kudos for this one, as he unintentionally uttered this malaphor when he was describing a person who is kind of a dour drip.  I hope it wasn’t me!

That’ll be a kettle of worms

Kettle of Fish

Kettle of Fish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This gem is a mixture of “a fine kettle of fish” and “a can of worms”, both meaning to describe a difficult situation or problem.  My guess is that the speaker was also confusing worms with fish, as worms are bait for fish.  Similar malaphors at this site are “I’ve opened up a can of beans” (7/31/13 compliments of Denita) and “that’s a real ball of worms” (12/18/12, submitted by Paula Fow).  Thanks to Barry Eigen who sent this one in, and added that if the speaker had only said “a fine kettle of worms”, the malaphor would have been perfect.   Perfection is elusive.

There’s no use crying over fish in the sea

Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue

Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This beauty, a mash up of “no use crying over spilled milk” (don’t be unhappy about things that already happened and cannot be changed) and “there are plenty of fish in the sea” (other choices), was spoken by the character Don Draper in the tv show Mad Men (Season 4, episode 7 – “the Suitcase“).  After Peggy talks to her boyfriend on the phone, she tells Don that she thinks she just broke off the relationship.  Don replies with this malaphor.   A big thanks to John Costello for spotting this one.


I’ve got better fish to fry

This one comes from the Christopher Walken character in the movie Batman Returns:

Charles ‘Chip’ Shreck: Dad, you buy that “blurry” business?
Maximillian’Max’ Shreck: Women. Nothing surprises me, Chip, except your late
mother. Who’d have thought Selina had a brain to damage. Bottom line,
she tries to blackmail me, I’ll drop her out a higher window. Meantime, I
got better fish to fry.

This is a blend of “I’ve got bigger fish to fy” and “I’ve got better things to do”.  Kudos to Barry Eigen for spotting this subtle malaphor.

Cover of "Batman Returns (Two-Disc Specia...

Cover via Amazon


He smokes like a fish


“The Master” sputtered this observation during a heated bowling match, and after several gin and tonics.  It is a brilliant malaphor, mixing two common idioms – smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish – with the ingenious result of smoked fish.