We pooled our heads together

This excellent malaphor was heard at a garden club.  The context was a story about the founding of a garden at the U.S. National Arboretum. The designers were told at the last minute that they needed to make a major change to one of the parts of the garden, so they “pooled our heads together” to quickly come up with an alternative.  Many thanks to Barry Eigen for hearing this one and sending it in.  Barry notes this is a mash up of  “pooled our ideas/resources”  (group individual ideas or money), “pull together (as a team)” (cooperate, work well together), and perhaps, by sound,  “pulled our thoughts (or ideas) together”.  This latter suggestion is intriguing to me, as the sound “pull” and “pool” are indistinguishable here in Western Pennsylvania, resulting in a homonym (the same is true of “hill” and “heel”, as in the classic classified ad, “high hills for sale”).  Perhaps the speaker hailed from Pittsburgh?


You nailed that right on the head

This one comes to us courtesy of CBS Sports.   Mike Carey, the “CBS Officiating Expert” on the NFL, said this beauty during the Denver-Kansas City game.  This is a congruent conflation of  “hit the nail on the head”  and “nailed it”, both meaning to do exactly the right thing.  This is a particular good one, as it is subtle and combines phrases with the same meaning.  Some of the confusion lies in the visual of hammering a nail on its head.   It is similar to “You hit it right on the nail”, reported on 8/29/12 in this website.  A big thank you to Mike Kovacs for reporting this one!


They were going butt-to-butt

In describing an angry argument, the speaker uttered this malaphor, a mash up of the phrases “head-to-head” and “butting heads”, both describing a confrontation or argument.  Head butting also comes to mind, among other images…  I will not display a picture for this malaphor.  Many thanks to Naomi David for giving me this gem!

Off the cuff of my head

This is a congruent conflation of  “off the top of my head” and “off the cuff”, both expressions meaning to speak without much thought or preparation.  It is similar to the 9/16/12 post “he said it off the top of his cuff”.   This malaphor came all the way from South Africa.  An African National Congress (ANC) spokesperson during a radio interview,  in avoiding difficult questions, responded with the opener: “Well, off the cuff of my head . . .”   A shout out to Allan Muir for sending this one in!

I couldn’t make head or hair of it

This classic is a mash up of “neither hide nor hair” (no sign of someone or something) and “can’t make heads or tails out of it” (unable to understand someone or something).  A big thank you to Yvonne Stam for hearing and sharing this malaphor.

I don’t know it off the top of my hand

This is a mash up of “off the top of my head” and “offhand”, both meaning to say something without preparation.  Hand and head both look and sound similar, and are both body parts, all adding to the confusion.   I have heard this one many times in conversation and in meetings.

They played out of their heads

Another malaphor from the sports world.   A tv sports commentator uttered this one when describing an underdog basketball team.  This is a mash up of “out of their minds” and “over their heads”, both describing a team that played beyond expectations.  NCAA cinderella team perhaps?

Athletics logo

Athletics logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)