I have a memory like a steel trap

This was uttered by the contributor’s mom, probably during a hard fought game of Scrabble. It is a mashup of “memory like an elephant” (exceptional memory) and “mind like a steel trap” (able to understand or grasp information quickly). Depending on the context, she may have been mixing “memory/mind like a sieve” (poor memory) as an incongruent conflation with a steel trap. A shout out to Sandor Kovacs for hearing this one and passing it on!

If they can fill in the dots

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was being interviewed by Rachel Maddow on her show (1/6/22). Goodwin was discussing the January 6 attempt to usurp the election results by violent means on the United States Capitol, and is hoping that the House Select Committee will obtain the facts that will educate the American people on what happened that day. Here is the transcript: https://www.msnbc.com/transcripts/transcript-rachel-maddow-show-1-6-22-n1287472

This is a congruent conflation of “connect the dots” and “fill in the blanks”, both meaning to understand something by providing information. A tip of the hat to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and passing it on.


Carve around

Al Sharpton uttered this malaphor, talking about the filibuster:

“…If they can carve around the filibuster to confirm Supreme Court judges for President Trump, they can carve around the filibuster to bring voter rights to President Biden.”-https://c-span.org/video/?514285-1/march-voting-rights-rally&live…

This is a mashup of “work around” (to manage something in spite of some problematic person or thing) and “carve out” (to establish a nich or role for oneself). A tip of the hat to Frank King for spotting this one.

I’ll keep this quick

The contributor of this malaphor received a political email asking for money from Lucas Kunce, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri. The email opens: “Hey Barry — I know you probably got a lot of emails today from my team and others ahead of tonight’s big FEC deadline. So I’ll keep this quick. . . .”

This is a congruent conflation of “keep this short” and “make this quick”, both meaning to do something quickly or hurry up. Politicians seem to love this phrase. Check out this email from Hakeem Jeffries with the subject line “”We’ll keep this quick”.


A big thanks to Barry Eigen for spotting this subtle mashup and sending it in.

Mix and choose

Mike Woodson, basketball coach at Indiana University, was previewing the IU Penn state game. When asked whether he’s now focusing more on offense than defense in practice, he said,  “we’re just going to mix and choose”.  This is a congruent conflation of “mix and match” and” pick and choose”, both meaning to select and combine various options. https://indiana.rivals.com/news/coach-q-a-mike-woodson-previews-penn-state-big-ten-play

This was submitted several minutes after the New Year began, making it 2022’s first malaphor. A big thanks to Bruce Ryan for spotting this one and sending it in.

Backseat quarterback

The speaker was telling his wife that he knows she doesn’t like him to be a “backseat quarterback”. This is a congruent conflation of “backseat driver” and “armchair quarterback”, both referring to someone who is eager to give advice without responsibility. A chair has a seat so this might have contributed to the mental hiccup. This also might be a nice description of all those QBs who sit on the sidelines waiting for the starter to leave the game.

A big thanks to Chuck Hatsis who blurted this one out and then passed it on to Malaphor Central. Thanks Chuck!

Don’t open a nest of worms

This beauty was often uttered by a Judge, says the contributor. It is a nice congruent conflation of “hornet’s nest” and “a can of worms”, both describing a complex, difficult problem or situation. “A can of worms” seems to be a phrase often jumbled, as there are other variations of this theme posted here previously. E.g. https://malaphors.com/2016/04/25/i-dont-want-to-open-up-that-hill-of-worms/ https://malaphors.com/2013/10/12/thatll-be-a-kettle-of-worms/ https://malaphors.com/2012/12/18/thats-a-real-ball-of-worms/ https://malaphors.com/2015/04/10/lets-not-open-up-that-can-of-bees/

A big thanks to Aileen Bowers for sharing this one.

2021 Malaphor of the Year!!

It’s now time to reveal this year’s Malaphor of the Year.  But before I unveil this masterpiece, here are the winners of past years:

2015 – I have a pulse to the ground (submitted by Paula Garrety)

2016 – Let’s give them a round of hand! (submitted by Martin Pietrucha)

2017 – Welcome to my shoes (submitted by Steve Kovacs)

2018 – Whatever turns your boat (submitted by John Kooser)

2019 – My old car shit the bucket (submitted by John Fischer)

2020 – You’re a one-horse pony (submitted by Bruce Ryan and Ron MacDonald)

Before I reveal the winner, I want to give a shout out to the runners-up:

I was out like a rock (August 2021 – submitted by Joanne Grieme). A nice congruent conflation of out like a light and slept like a rock.

Republicans didn’t blink twice (January 2021 – submitted by Barry Eigen). Subtle mashup.

When the shit hit the storm (January 2021 – submitted by Jack Chandler). Howard Stern describing January 6.

A yankering (May 2021 – submitted by Barry Eigen). A great word blend malaphor of yen and hankering.

But the winner this year was submitted by the prolific malaphor contributor, Frank King, when he spotted this beauty on 60 Minutes:

The new President says he wants to turn over a new page

Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes said this one, referring to Biden’s plans. This is a nice congruent conflation of “turn over a new leaf” and “turn the page”, both meaning to make a fresh start or start anew. This one makes a lot of sense as the “leaf” in the expression “turn over a new leaf” refers to a page in a book. Or a Clinton freudian slip? Happy New Year everyone!

I don’t want to stir any more feathers

During a conference call, the speaker said this because she was apparently causing some issues. It’s a congruent conflation of “stir the pot” and “ruffle some feathers”, both meaning to further irritate or annoy someone or something. A big thank you to Naomi David for another malaphor mishap and to Katie Norwood for sending it in.

I stuck my ground

On the CBS Sunday Morning show last Sunday (12/19/21) soon to be retired National Institute of Health head, Francis Collins, talked about an opinion he held, which then President Trump didn’t care for. Trump tried to dissuade him but, as he said, “I stuck my ground” (see: https://www.cbsnews.com/video/retiring-nih-director-dr-francis-collins/#x; around the 2:23 mark).  This is a congruent conflation of “stuck to my guns” and “stood my ground”, both meaning to refuse to compromise despite criticism. Perhaps Dr. Collins thought the past tense of “stand” is “stuck”. That’s certainly where the confusion lies in this nice malaphor. A big thanks to Martin Pietrucha who heard this one and passed it on.

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins holds up a model of the coronavirus as he testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee looking into the budget estimates for National Institute of Health (NIH) and the state of medical research, Wednesday, May 26, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)