If you hear or see a malaphor, please let me know by dropping a comment on the website.  Please include who said it and/or where you heard/saw it.

569 Comments on “Contact”

  1. Beverly Rollins says:

    Heard today in the movie “Margin Call”– “that’s spilled milk under the bridge.”

  2. Mike Kovacs says:

    Here’s the gem we just heard, Dave!

    You hit it right on the nail!

  3. Susan Ivison says:

    Are you bringing these to Australia? Should be a few good ones here to add. I’ll be on the lookout!

  4. Laura says:

    I love, love, love this site! I’ve added Malaphors to my list of links on Terribly Write.

  5. I work with a woman that spouts malaphors on a DAILY basis. I’ve unintentionally been focusing on them and I’m in pain! I actually type them into my phone as they fall out of her mouth throughout the day. The latest one: “well, they chopped it down to inexperience”…

  6. Laz says:

    Nice site, Your Excellency.. I just “rediscovered” it.. Shame on me for taking so long..

  7. john clegg says:

    Love the new look Dave…am sending this on to my dad, who was a stickler in the mud for grammar and syntax and vocabulary and semiotics. Have to send him this new piece on portmanteaus, which I love. (I love their show too, with Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein) Anyhue, 30 Rock ended their season this week with the term hogcock…which was a cross between hogwash & poppycock. Can you put the proper punctuation in to make this correct? Jones on the examination where Smith had had had had had had had had had had had the teacher’s approval. How about this one…that that is is that that is not that that is not is not that it it is

    Cheers & thanks for the Mail O Grams For All Seasons…

    • In the programming language C++, the special word “this” refers to the current object. Therefore, it is pefectly reasonable to have discussions of the form

      “Your problem is that you think you are working with this this. But you are actually working with that this, which is not the this you want.”

      I’ve not only had these conversations, I’ve even taught using sentences even more convoluted. The students usually laugh at the right points, until I ask them to explain why we have this this when we should have had that this, or vice-versa.

      I even used it in a poem, “If I wrote a view/Said young Gerald McGrew…” Those readers who are programmers will enjoy it; those who are not will only be bewildered:

  8. Art says:

    Saw the PG article this morning. I have also been collecting these for years. My mother-in-law has been a reliable source.

    Two of my favorites:

    “It was a large party and he hoofed the bill.”

    “Every tree has a silver lining.”

  9. C Sidick says:

    My friend constantly says “I’m just talking out loud”

    • davemalaphor says:

      Yes, that is an excellent one and not only common but very subtle, which in my opinion are the best ones. Thanks! Become a follower of the blog and I will send you a malaphor of the day.

  10. loved the article in the PG today – haven’t explored your site very much yet, but I just have to ask if you have quoted Sophie Masloff delightful blunders here?
    My daughter, at age 3, called her Soapie – her own delightful blunder — maybe she still does (at age 30) – though Soapie is no longer our neighbor, nor in the news too often)

    • davemalaphor says:

      Thanks Cheryl. I will definitely look at the Mayor’s past comments. I believe many would be considered malaprops but I am sure she threw a few malaphors in the mix! Please consider following the blog and I will send you a malaphor of the day (or so). .

  11. I already did sign up (today) and also mentioned this on my FB page!

  12. John says:

    My wife dropped this one last year – cracked me up. ‘I must have been out in left space!’ – which is a combination of ‘outer space’ and ‘left field’!

    • Computer people are notorious for taking everyday words, infusing them with a specific meaning, and thereafter using them, to the endless confusion of non-computer-people. However, programming is a precise craft, and in some cases the tiniest error can result in catastrophic failure (“The program has stopped running” is the sanitized, non-programmer-friendly way of expressing this today; years ago it was more nerdy, and I got a call from my mother that the computer had done something “illegal”. She was very concerned). One thing that it is possible to do is to cause the program to attempt to transfer control to a wildly-invalid location in memory. I have referred to this for decades as “a transfer of control to East Hyperspace” (OK, I’m a science fiction reader as well…)

  13. jfmclaugh says:

    I treat my wife with love and respect, because I know which side my bed is buttered on!

    • davemalaphor says:

      This is a great one, John! I will post it soon on the blog. If you leave your email in the space on the lower right hand corner of the website, i will send you the malaphor of the day everyday (or just about).

  14. Meesy says:

    My husband while lecturing my daughters will say, ” You know life is not all guns and roses!” he is trying to say “wine and roses!”. Guns ‘N Roses is a heavy metal band!!

    • davemalaphor says:

      This is a great one! Reminds me of one I posted a few months ago – Knights in white armor satin – episode on the Sopranos. See my section Malaphors in the Media on the website or the Malaphor facebook page. I will post yours soon! thanks again and send me any new ones you hear.

  15. Frances Irvin says:

    I had just read your article in the Post-Gazette, so I was well prepared to recognize this malaphor provided by my son after school today. He was describing one of his teachers straying from her subject matter, “She went off into tangents”. I think this is a blend of “off on a tangent” and “off into space”. No, it was not the math teacher!

    • davemalaphor says:

      Love it, love it, love it! Thanks Frances for sharing. I will post as one of my malaphors of the day. If you are not already a follower, put your email in on the follower box and a malaphor will be sent to you (almost) daily.

  16. Lauren says:

    “throw it under the rug” – heard this morning on NPR in a story about the Catholic Church.

  17. I have a number of favorite malaphors, which I have used in my writing, where my writers’ groups try to patiently explain why my usage is wrong, not realizing I’m doing it deliberately:

    We’ll burn that bridge as we cross it

    It’s time to take the bull by the tail and face the situation (and think about what this really means!).

    [there’s a couple more, but I’m currently drawing a blank. It’s on the tip of my finger. (Given that I’m typing this on the “soft keyboard” on my iPad, that’s not a malaphor; it is literally true)]

  18. Hi Dave. Like your website. My daughter has been doing this for years and I keep corecting her. The last one she said, “This guy is like loose cannon balls” That’s a classic. I will be writing her’s down inthe future.

  19. Gerry Abbott says:

    Hey Dave.

    Here’s a good one from the NFL combine. Matt Barkley of USC had this to say about former USC QB Marc Sanchez:

    “He got kind of thrown into the gauntlet in New York.”

    I think this mash-up “thrown into the fire” and made to “run the gauntlet” approaches “master-level”.

  20. dikdikpellek says:

    From 1976 or 1977…..Oh well, that is now just water over the bridge. Remark was in reply to an action that was not taken, so the issue should just go away.

  21. Barry Eigen says:

    Here’s one I just heard, although I think it’s pretty common: “The only flaw in the ointment was that. . . .” I thought it would already be on your site but couldn’t find it with the search function. Obviously, a mixup of “fly in the ointment” with something like “flaw in the logic.” I’d love to tell you the source, but I’d rather not get divorced this week so I’ll keep it to myself.

  22. Barry Eigen says:

    New one from today’s (4/29) People’s Court (don’t ask). “Judge” Marilyn Milian said: “I don’t know him from a hole in the wall.”

  23. Denita says:

    I was so glad to find your blog and to discovery that my condition has a name!! I say malaphors all the time and my husband is quick to point them out. Our all-time favorite is, “I’ve opened up a can of beans.” A mixing of “open up a can of worms” and “spill the beans.”

  24. Allan Muir says:

    My son this weekend, talking about one guy who was permanently getting on another guy’s nerves: “He really rubs him up the wrong tree”

  25. Allan Muir says:

    An ANC spokesperson here in South Africa, during a radio interview one afternoon a few years ago, was doing the usual political side-speak (my term for sidestepping awkward questions, and never really saying anything meaningful), and responded to the next difficult question with the opener: “Well, off the cuff of my head . . .”

  26. Basil says:

    Can’t go past ‘sowed your own poison’, as in “you sowed your own poison, man!”. This a quote from James Franco’s character, Saul; in the movie, Pineapple Express.

  27. David Spain says:

    I heard a good one yesterday I had not heard before. Maybe you can tell me if it’s an original:

    The phrase is: “I have too many fires on my plate”

    A combination of “I have too many irons in the fire” and “My plate is full”.
    I credit it to (or at least first heard it from) R. Newcomb yesterday August 19, 2013.

  28. Barry Eigen says:

    This sounds familiar to me, so maybe you’ve already posted it or one like it, but here it is anyway: At church choir rehearsal tonight, the director said “That’ll be a kettle of worms.” (If only she had said, “That’ll be a fine kettle of worms” it would have been perfect. But she didn’t.) The mashup is obvious. Enjoy.

    • davemalaphor says:

      This is a good one, Barry. I have posted two similar ones, “a real ball of worms”, and “opened up a can of beans”, but this one is a new one. Will post right away. Thanks!

  29. Sarah says:

    My husband and I were discussing the coming frost and my still-green tomatoes. He told me to “count my losses” and just pick them green. I’m thinking it’s a combo of “cut my losses” and “count the cost.”

  30. Molly Shafer says:

    Just heard on our local sports cast re: a Buffalo Bills injury – “Could it me serious?” “It could be, but he was able to pick himself up and scrape himself off.”

    Pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

    Scrape somebody off the pavement.

  31. Eric Marsh says:

    Here are a couple of malaphors I noted down a while ago (before I knew the term). Unfortunately I didn’t note the sources.
    1. He dug himself into a corner. (painted himself … into a hole).
    2. It added another feather to his bow. (another string … in his cap).

  32. Riesespieces says:

    Heard a good one from my girlfriend the other day, however she didn’t want to share it. She was talking about how her old roommate forgot about plans they made to get dinner together after rescheduling countless times.

    “I can’t believe it. Welp, that’s all she blew.” Short and sweet combination of “That’s all she wrote” (nothing left to do with a specific situation or the end of an activity) and “you blew it” (failed at producing the desirable outcome for a responsibility or action).

  33. Barry says:

    I just posted today’s Gail Collins op-ed from the NY Times on my Facebook page, and one of the commenters (look for UltraLiberal) says: “Catholics have to worry about extinction, This is a perfect example of the frying pan calling the kettle black.”

  34. David Spain says:

    I accidentally spilled one today, searched for it on your website and could not believe that it did not show up!

    “That’s a whole different ball of fish!” A malaphor formed from a mash-up of “That’s a whole different ball of wax!” and “That’s a different kettle of fish!” I suppose you could also phrase it the other way as well: “That’s a different kettle of wax!”.

  35. davemalaphor says:

    Excellent, David. Similar to “ball of worms” posted earlier. I will post this beauty right away! Thanks again.

  36. Emma Conroy says:

    A few more for your collection, from family and friends. “She thinks she’s the Queen’s bees”, “That’s let the fly out of the bucket”, “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it” and that oft said remark to the kids at meal times, “How many times have I told you, don’t eat with your mouth full!”

    • davemalaphor says:

      Thank you Emma. Queen’s bees is a good one and will add it. Burn that bridge when we come to it is in my collection. Look under bridge or burn.

  37. Laszlo says:

    I heard two beauties in one TV episode yesterday: FBI: Criminal Pursuit, episode “The Bronx Butcher”

    “Mary, a native FROM Yugoslavia..”
    A mash of “Mary, a native OF Yugoslavia” and “Mary WAS FROM Yugoslavia”

    “We put the x-rays of the body part and Mary’s doctor’s x-ray side by side”: “It was an
    IDENTICAL match”
    It was either “they were identical” or “it was an exact match”


  38. Barry Eigen says:

    You must have seen this and figured it wasn’t a malaphor. I don’t know what the heck it is, but it’s such a goofy mash that I’m submitting it anyway. “Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president. His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.'” Here’s the source:

  39. davemalaphor says:

    I did indeed see this, Barry, and alas it is “just” a string of metaphors. Should be submitted to the New Yorker under the Block that Metaphor! column. Also props to Sarah P for a two language metaphor.

  40. Sbarney says:

    At work today, someone said, “I can’t make heads or toes of it” – It made me question my idioms and I stumbled on this fantastic site. I saw the “head or hair of it” one which is truly better. Perhaps he just mixed “can’t make heads or tails of it” with “from head to toe?”

  41. Gary Cummings says:

    Great website concept, Dave, quite entertaining!
    My father frequently created novel, mixed expressions, quite by accident. I wish I had written them down. One favorite elicits an uncomfortable mental picture…

    “raped over the coals” as a departure from “raked…”

  42. Lisa says:

    On more than one occasion, my girlfriend has used the statement, “Oh well, half in one six dozen in the other” to convey the “same difference” concept. It’s funny every time.

    • davemalaphor says:


      I always had a hard time with that expression as well. Too many numbers and words that sound alike! Your girlfriend’s mess up is not really a malaphor but just a messed up idiom. I do love it however!

  43. Heard one today that was new to my experience.

    The woman I was riding with got a call from her husband (he was meeting us for dinner). She got it just as she was trying to make a left turn against oncoming traffic, so she said

    “I’ll call you back in a minute. I’m fuming at the mouth trying to make this left turn”


  44. That last submission reminded me of another malaphor I have now seen at least three times:

    “If you think [whatever], well, you’ve got another thing coming!”

  45. Gary Cummings says:

    Hi Dave,
    I recently watched a YouTube video interviewing participants in top secret aircraft programs during the 1970s. I heard two new malaphors…

    A retired brigadier general said, “All of us had our eyes peeled on that particular device, and when we learned its origin, we were all surprised…”

    An aerospace contractor said, “We were only told exactly what we needed to do the job; no one had the big picture. There was absolutely no interdepartmentalization of that program.

  46. I heard one the other day…we were going to a retaurant, we were in the left-turn lane, and my ride was talking to her husband on the. She was sufficiently distracted that she missed an opportunity to turn, so we had to wait for the lights to cycle (there is a brief time with a left-turn arrow). She told her husband, “I can’t really talk right now; I’ve got people behind me fuming at the mouth to make this turn,”

  47. Sarah says:

    I have so many malaphors and misstatements due to being sleep deprived and newly postpartum. Yesterday I told my husband he was “shooting himself in the foot to spite his face.”

  48. Barry Eigen says:

    Heard one in a class last night. The teacher said: “I’m no expert in this subject by any stretch of the means.” Obviously, a mashup of “by any means” and “by any stretch of the imagination.”

  49. Mary says:

    “She’s a tough cookie to crack.”

    I accidentally blurted out this combination of “tough cookie” and “tough nut to crack” to describe my sassy cat. She has been a tough cookie to crack ever since.

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