The speaker was obviously meaning to say “every cloud has a silver lining”, but where did the tree come from? Possibly he was thinking of a silver maple, those messy trees that every yard seems to have. Or, as my “ol pal” suggests, the word “sliver” instead of “silver” floated up in the brain soup, suggesting wood. “Barking up the wrong tree” also might have been in the mix, even though the meaning is not remotely close to the intended meaning. Any other suggestions out there? Thanks to Art for sending this one to the site.
This is a conflation of “barking up the wrong tree” (making the wrong choice) and “up a blind alley” (at a dead end). The confusion seems to lie in the shared word “up”, and that both idioms describe frustration and negativity. “Right up my alley” may also be in play here, juxtaposing wrong and right. And lets not forget those dogs that bark incessantly in alleys.
This is a mash up of “down a blind alley” and “led on a wild goose chase”, both meaning an unproductive or futile pursuit. Blind and wild are similar sounding words, so the brain chose the wrong swirling fragment. This seems to be a common malaphor, based on the many internet hits. Reminds me of the proverb: A blind goose is as good as a deaf duck (ok, I made that up – just trying to be a wise quacker).