Followers may recall a recent post from Marykathryn, who was described as “The Norma Crosby of Malaphors”, and who uttered the classic “do you think I would paint myself in a corner and throw away the key?” She now has sent another classic, spoken out of exasperation. Her husband apparently is a slow and cautious driver. He was trying to make a right hand turn onto a busy road and missed at least three chances that Norma Crosby perceived. So, she calmly said to him, “You know Danny, he who hesitates doesn’t get the early worm.” This is a conflation of “he who hesitates is lost” (people should act decisively) and “the early bird catches the worm” (the one who arrives first has the best chance for success). It is somewhat congruent as both proverbs relate to acting quickly to achieve success. Trivia tidbit – The Early Worm Gets the Bird was the name of a Merrie Melodies 1940s cartoon by the great Tex Avery. A big thank you to Marykathryn for sending this one in!
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.
This is a mash-up of “can of worms” (a situation which causes difficulty when starting to deal with it) and “the whole ball of wax” (everything). The mix up may have been caused by the words worms and wax, both starting with w, and that both idioms have the preposition “of” in them. In addition, the context was an administrative hearing where the speaker was describing his home life, indicating that everything was a mess, hence the conflation of the two phrases.