I dropped the boat on that one

This is a terrific congruent conflation of “missed the boat” and “dropped the ball”, both meaning to have made an error or mistake.  Maybe the speaker was experiencing an earworm of that 1974 song “Rock the Boat” by the one hit wonder group Hues Corporation.   In any event, this double whammy can be used to describe the mother of all mistakes.  A big thanks to Marcia Riefer Johnston who sent this one in and is a new malaphor follower.  By the way, she has a great website, http://writing.rocks.  Check it out!

He is behind the gun

This subtle malaphor is a mash up of “behind the 8 ball” (in trouble) and “under the gun” (under pressure).  Both idioms are very similar in meaning.  The context was facing a deadline, so the speaker probably meant under the gun.  The words behind and under are similar in indicating location, which I think adds to the mix up.  Many thanks to Senior Malaphor Hunter Mike Kovacs (note the title in caps).

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

When all the balls are in line

Christopher Dolan, the California lawyer who is representing the McMath family who has a brain dead daughter, said regarding litigation against the hospital,  “What we needed to know is that when all the balls are in line that we could move quickly and not have to then have any impediments.”  This is a mash up of “ducks in a row” and “fall in line”, both meaning to have things properly organized.  “Stars aligned” might also be in the mix as that phrase also means things happen in an organized way and also line rhymes with aligned.   Also “many balls in the air” might be at play since the speaker used the word balls and was referring to many things happening, although not at once.  Thanks to Ron Marks for sending this one in!


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.

I have too many fires on the plate

This is a mash up of “too many irons in the fire” (many things happening at once) and “my plate is full” (working at capacity on many things).  It is similar to previous malaphors (“lot of irons in the pipeline” – 12/13/12 – “lot of balls in the fire” – 7/17/13), all referring to many things happening at the same time.  Perhaps that is what the mind does with expressions: juggling a million in the brain and two similar ones spit out.  A big thank you to David Spain for overhearing this one.

I have a lot of balls in the fire

Ouch!  This is a mix up of “irons in the fire” (a number of jobs or possibilities at the same time) and “balls in the air” (many things happening at once).   A big thanks to Martin Pietrucha for sending this one in.

That’s the way the cookie bounces

English: A Pepperidge Farm "Nantucket&quo...

English: A Pepperidge Farm “Nantucket” cookie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a straightforward malaphor, mixing “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” and “that’s the way the ball bounces”, both meaning you can’t control everything that happens to you.   It also could describe the rejects from cookie exchanges this time of year.