The humorist H. Allen Smith used this phrase as the title of a book (1941) after the radio comedian Fred Allen had used the term to describe him in an introduction to an earlier book. The position on an actual totem pole bu the way, has no such signficiance. Nevertheless, the term caught on quickly enough to become a cliche.
Instead of posting my new malaphor for Monday, I thought I would repost this gem from a few years ago. This one appears in my new book, “Things Are Not Rosy-Dory: Malaphors From Politicians and Pundits”, available NOW on Amazon. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08C7GGMG5?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860
“This is another one from Senator Bernie Sanders, this time regarding a comment made by Senator Pat Toomey. Sen. Sanders asked if Toomey would pledge not to cut Social Security and Medicare and Toomey responded, “I will not cut benefits on people who are on it right now”. Sanders responded that Toomey “Just let the cat out of the box”. It is a mix of “out of the box” (a product that can be used immediately) and “let the cat out of the bag” (to reveal a secret by accident). Of course a “cat box” may have been on Sanders’ mind as he was articulating his disdain for the proposed Republican tax bill. A big thanks to Susan Ameel for hearing this one!”
And below is another nice illustration from the book drawn by my friend and dentist Dr. Cheryl Rosato!
Introducing my new Malaphor book: “Things Are Not Rosy-Dory: Malaphors From Politicians and Pundits”Posted: July 3, 2020
LaToya Cantrell, mayor of New Orleans, was discussing police actions and public safety on the MSNBC show, “All In with Chris Hayes”. This is a mashup of “turned the corner” (begun to have improvement or success after a difficult or troubling period) and “ahead of the curve” (better than average). Both idioms are about success or improvement. Although the topic was not about the pandemic, “flatten the curve” (slowing down the spread of a disease) was probably on the speaker’s mind as well. A big thanks to Frank King for hearing this one. You can hear this malaphor at approximately 16 minutes into the show:
The speaker was commenting on another person’s political statement that was based on a lie rather than fact. It is a rare, three-way malaphor, combining “frame of mind” (mental or emotional attitude or mood), “mindset” (a person’s attitudes or opinions formed from earlier experiences), and “living in a world of (one’s) own” (consumed by one’s thoughts or imagination). A big thanks to David Barnes for hearing and spotting this unicorn in the malaphor wilds.
At first blush, this looked more like a mixed metaphor than a malaphor, but on close inspection it is indeed a mashup of two idioms. This one comes from the local news in Baltimore: a Baltimore City official was giving an update on trash/garbage pickup problems, and trashmen were off work as a result of the coronavirus. Here is the quote:
“This last week has been extremely difficult for everyone involved, but there is a silver lining at the end of that tunnel,” Chalmers said. “The Eastern District will be back up and running tomorrow. If you can’t hear the sigh of relief in my voice, I’m glad that they’re coming back.”
It is a mix of “every cloud has a silver lining” (every bad situation holds the possibility of something good) and “light at the end of the tunnel” (a period of hardship is nearing its end). Both expressions involve a bad situation turning better, so this malaphor perhaps means a doubly bad situation made doubly better? Or maybe the official was thinking of silver linings for the trashcans. A big thanks to Fred Martin for hearing this one and sending it in!
This malaphor was found in the Wall Street Journal: Devesh Shah, retired from Goldman Sachs, wrote this gem in an article about volatility:
“It started out as a metric,” said Devesh Shah, who first helped make the widely watched volatility gauge, the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, tradable in 2004 while he was at Goldman Sachs Group Inc, before retiring as a partner. “Now…the genie is out of the bag and volatility is everywhere.”
This is a mashup of “the genie is out of the bottle” (something has been done that cannot be changed) and “let the cat out of the bag” (allow a secret to be known). Genies and cats “come out” of something, leading to this mental mixup. A big thank you to Cecily Franklin who spotted this beauty!
This was heard on MSNBC in a discussion regarding the recent protests on racism. It is a congruent conflation of “hold (one’s) temper” and “keep your cool”, both meaning to refrain from being angered by some provocation. I also found this malaphor in a Wikihow presentation on overcoming racism. https://www.wikihow.com/Overcome-Racism. This is similar to a malaphor uttered by Paul Ryan and posted a few years ago, “I want to hold my powder”. https://malaphors.com/2013/04/15/i-want-to-hold-my-powder/
A big thanks to Bruce Ryan for hearing this one and passing it on.