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.
Thanks. I put it in my cart.
I have a co-worker that inadvertently drops these on a daily basis. I don’t work closely with him anymore, but I used to keep a list.
My all time favorite: “It depends on what color your rose-colored glasses are.”
Nice, but not sure it’s a malaphor. Rose-colored glasses and ?
Dear Dave, Please figure this out for me. (It’s from a Washington Post piece on diversity in super hero movies.) Here’s the context paragraph: “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there,” Gabriel said at the Marvel Retailer Summit, according to Entertainment Weekly. “We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”
The mala-something: “… people were turning their nose up against.”
(I don’t even want to start on why the speaker thinks ‘diversity’ refers specifically and, apparently, exclusively, to women!)
Seems like a variant of “turning up (one’s) nose”? I posted a malaphor on this phrase awhile back – “turning down their noses” – https://malaphors.com/2013/01/18/and-then-everyone-wonders-why-europeans-turn-down-their-noses-at-americans/
I just saw one in the Washington Post, in shortened form: “Trump’s window is sinking.” A mashup of “window of opportunity is closing” and “ship is sinking” or “heart is sinking”? Anyhow, a sinking window is not a good thing. Here’s the full quote:
“THE HONEYMOON IS OVER:
“– Trump’s window to score early legislative victories is sinking as Congress’s summer recess nears — giving the president just two months to revive his health-care and tax efforts before lawmakers depart Capitol Hill for a long break.”
Here’s the source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/05/31/daily-202-the-gop-s-invisible-agenda/592d9df4e9b69b2fb981dbf8/?utm_term=.e07bf7d92b04
“He left with his head between his tail”
Said by a colleague – Kelly “Kallina” Penny a.k.a MoneyPenny – from Melbourne, Australia. We have a shit ton of these, she is a fountain of malaphors, apparently this is due to her super large brain working too quickly for her mouth to keep up. But we all think she’s just a bit thick.
I posted that one a couple of years ago – https://malaphors.com/2015/06/27/his-head-between-his-tail/ But keep ’em coming Gilesy!
A malaphor that I accidently created myself is “all hands off,” a combination of “all bets off” and “hands down.”
Nice! Will post! What name should i give to give you props in the blog?
My co-worker just said, “I may be speaking out of tongue, but…”
So, mixing “speaking out of turn” with “speaking in tongues” is what I think we’ve mixed here..
Love that she drops these occasionally, love that I found this site to share. Keep it up!
Thanks Phillip! That’s a beauty and will post soon!
Hi! I was writing an email to my favourite teacher, and this one popped into my head: ‘Getting on like a car on fire’! 🙂 I really hope this one will be shared!
Malaphors are an incredible use of the English language, and I’m so, so, so, SO happy that a lovely friend of mine shared this wonderful place, filled with innovation, creativity, passion, dedication, collaboration, and love for the English language! ❤
I was writing an email to my favourite teacher, and this one popped into my head: ‘Getting on like a car on fire’! 🙂 I really hope this one will be shared!
Malaphors are an incredible use of the English language, and I’m so, so, so, SO happy that a lovely friend of mine shared this wonderful place, filled with innovation, creativity, passion, dedication, joy, collaboration, and love for the English language (just like her)! ❤
Hilarious, but not sure of the mix. House on fire and ?
I thought it was to do with ‘driving at full-speed, stemming from the phrase: ‘to wrap one’s car around something’…
Just discovered your website and I’m so excited. My friends and I have been cracking up about these things for years, not knowing there were other people out there who thought these were hilarious too. I discovered your website when my coworker had said “locked in stone”, and I realized you had posted it previously.
My coworkers are great at unintentionally saying these things. Here are some of my recent favorites:
“We’re falling behind the 8 curve” = “Behind the 8 ball” and “throwing a curve ball”?
“Preaching from the top of the choir” = “Preaching to the choir” and ???
“I’m just reaching for straws here” = “Grasping at straws” + I think “reaching for the stars”
“He pulled some strings out of his hat” = “Pulled some strings” + “pulling a rabbit out of a hat”
Love the imagery on the last one. Feel free to repost or quietly chuckle to yourself! Thanks!
I don’t know if this qualifies as a malaphor because you have to read it. In speechit sounds OK – in fact that’s probably why it occurred. I was reading a paper a friend of mine had written about sea levels rising due to global warming and in discussing its effect on the country of Maldives, she had written, “… but with the nation itself standing just a hare’s breath above sea level …”. (By the way, I would assume that hares have pretty good breath, considering all the chlorophyll they must eat).
I don’t think it’s a malaphor (just misspelling of hair’s breadth) but very funny! Maybe an eggcorn?
just heard one today “It’s all water in the bucket”. When I asked the speaker the meaning of the phrase he said it was “similar to the idea conveyed by the phrase “Every penny adds up””, however, it appears to be a malaphor of “It’s all water under the bridge” and “It’s a drop in the bucket”
Another variation for your “can of worms/kettle of fish” section? “This is a whole other can if worms.” The source is an article today in Daily Kos. https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2017/7/30/1685501/-WikiLeaks-Officially-in-the-bag-for-Trump?detail=emaildkre
I have a friend who told me that his grandfather’s favorite saying was
“You can catch more flies with honey than a stick”
One of my clients said this one yesterday: “There’s two coins to every story.” A mash up of 2 sides to every story and 2 sides of the same coin. The sides got left out, coining a new story!
Some time years ago I had the idea to mix together “cut it out” and “knock it off” to “cut it off,” just for the humor value, and I still say it sometimes today.
Was talking to a friend on facebook and we were talking about meeting new people when moving to university, as I’m heading there this year, and a different friend of mine is already moving in. She mentioned about “breaking the air” which I guess was a subconcious mashing of “clearing the air” and “breaking the ice”! 🙂
Stephen Bannon in his recent interview with Charlie Rose: “They [Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan] do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalistic agenda to be implemented. It’s obvious as night follows day.” A blend of “as clear as day” and “sure as night follows day”?
Paul, I don’t think this is a malaphor. Obvious is just used in place of sure, I think. Internet posts also seem to say this is a proper phrase. Dave
My ex once gave me a piece of advice: ‘don’t count your eggs before you put the basket down’. I assume he was getting confused between ‘don’t count your eggs before they hatch’ and ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ but I enjoyed his rationalisation – some eggs may fall out or break as you’re putting the basket down!
Excellent one, Zozie. I have a few variations on that theme on the website. Just search “eggs” or “basket”. Will post this gem soon! Thanks.
Two for you:
From a student’s comments on the readings in my class: “It’s very mind bottling that …”
I’m sure that it’s not a typo, because she wrote it on two different sets of comments. Told her that she might better use the mysterious word “boggling”, in hopes that she would not embarrass herself with it elsewhere.
From a long time ago (1987): A housemate in Iowa City informed me that she felt as though she was “walking on eggs and needles” when I was around. I could never get that out of my head, imagining how hard it would be to avoid the needles when they were immersed in pools of uncooked eggs. Shortly thereafter, said roommate tossed a smoldering cigarette butt into a wastebasket before going to work one day, and burned the house down. So, I never got to hear any more gems, and she didn’t have to be walking on eggs and needles any longer.
Excellent post. Mind bottling is I think a malaprop rather than a malaphor, with the word mix bottling for boggling. However, walking on eggs and needles is an excellent malaphor which I will post. Reminds me of a previous posting about anxious employees: “they were sitting on their hands and needles”. Dave
“It’s got everything under the book!”
I unfortunately can’t remember what exactly my friend was talking about, as it was several weeks ago, and I’d’ve posted this sooner but for the life of me I couldn’t remember the name of this site! All I remember is that we were at an amusement park, and all I can assume is that I’d asked what all sorts of rides and other things the park had to offer. anyways, it was curious and memorable enough to stick in my head this long, and I thought I’d share it with you!
Just seen this on Facebook in a post from my friend Jennifer
“Good grief… ask someone a simple question and they jump down your ass on Facebook. Just asked if they read article cause I got virus when I opened article.. … Some people need manners!”
Clearly a malaphor of “jumping down my throat” (sudden angry outburst) and “get off my ass” (nagging, harassing, badgering)
“Trial by error”
My girlfriend said this to me just a minute ago, and I had to stop and tell her “I need to send this to a site hold on”, and she was really confused. Anyways, as is obvious this is somewhere in between “Trial and error” and “Trial by fire”. I thought it was really interesting and funny, and I wanted to share.
Dave: overheard this one at a family get-together. A young family member was told a very exciting tale. When it was over, his face was full of disbelief and he yelled: “ARE YOU KIDDING MY FACE OFF?” … a combination of “are you kidding me” and perhaps “wipe that smirk off your face”. It has become a common expression around our household. Hope you like it. 🙂
not sure this is a malaphor. Are you kidding me and ??
My fiance just said a fellow classmate of hers should start over to give her a “fresh slate”.
Not sure if this is a malaphor precisely, but a good 25 years ago someone in my school said (about a group project we were working on): “Well, we’ll fall off that bridge when we come to it.” This has always struck me as a hilarious, though somewhat cynical, new take on how to deal (or fail to deal!) with future problems.
Of HR personnel, “anybody worth their weight in salt” would take allegations of sexual harassment seriously, Heard on NPR’s All Things Considered this evening. A conflation of “worth one’s weight in gold” and “worth one’s salt”?
Great one, Paul! Will post right away.
Heard two friends talking about someone who was betrayed: “They really swept her under the bus….”
Combines “swept under the carpet” and “throw under the bus”.
My wife recently tagged her uncle in a facebook post about singing karaoke. He responded by saying: “… and yes, Courtney we still sing all the time. Hopefully we have installed good marriage values for you and your husband to sing karaoke”. We had a good chuckle about it. 🙂
I love it, but I think it is a malaprop instead of a malaphor (installed for instilled). Good laugh though!
My mum has always said she “wouldn’t do _ in a pink fit of Sundays”
We never knew where it came from until recently, when we realised it’s a mix of “in a pink fit” and “in a month of Sundays”
Heard from my friend, directing a rehearsal: “Let’s get this done in a timely and fashionable manner.” (I’m guessing a mash up of ‘timely manner’ and ‘timely fashion’)
“I was trying to buttercoat it.”
A malaphor of butter up and sugarcoat. My coworker just said this when complimenting my singing. He used an expletive the first time, but when he repeated it, he used a euphemism in place of the expletive. When I said, “That’s not what you said before,” he said he was trying to buttercoat it, not realizing that he was mixing two expressions. When I told him that what he just said is a malaphor of butter up and sugarcoat, he said that it perfectly conveyed his sentiment.
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Nothing like a good Chuck-ism 😂
A post shared by NBA on TNT (@nbaontnt) on Jan 4, 2018 at 10:34pm PST
Nothing like a good Chuck-ism 😂
A post shared by NBA on TNT (@nbaontnt) on Jan 4, 2018 at 10:34pm PST
Charles Barkley: “he brings a different animal to the table”
Trying to figure out the mix here. Brings something to the table and ?
There seems to be a discussion of “a very different animal” at
From an article in the January 21, New York Times magazine section, titled “They want to destroy us”:”We don’t want you breathing down our back.” A mashup of breathing down one’s neck and get off one’s back? It’s certainly hard to picture this happening unless the recipient of the breathing has no shirt on.
Today in our staff meeting, we brought up a topic that we needed to wait to address so I said “Let’s couch that until next week.”
And another from the WSJ today: “Whoever is saying that is talking through a complete hole in their head.” It’s from an article about Scotch whisky. https://www.wsj.com/articles/if-youre-a-purist-about-scotch-whisky-you-might-find-this-hard-to-swallow-1516728633?mod=e2tw. Possibly a mashup of “talking through one’s hat,” needing something like “a hole in the head,” and maybe “talking off the top of one’s head.” There are a couple of interesting idioms I found when I was looking to see if this was a real saying: “talking out of the back of one’s head” and “talking out of the side of one’s neck.” (There was also “talking out of the back of her neck” from P.G. Wodehouse.) But I didn’t find this one, possibly because pretty much everyone (save for people who use mechanical devices) talks through a hole in their head: their mouth.
Good one. First thing that came to my mind is “talking like an a**hole”. But then again, I might just have s**thole on my mind….
Wow. I heard two in one day:
“Not the brightest knife in the drawer”
Radio host commenting on a politician; (Not the brightest bulb; not the sharpest knife in the drawer)
“Keep your eyes in your pants”
One gym rat warning another about spending too much time looking at the girls in the gym; (Keep your eyes to yourself; keep your d*** in your pants)
These three are all original, or at least I came to them independently.
Squeaky wheel gets the cheese
Read the elephant on the wall or Read the elephant in the room
Quiet as a whistle
I said this one myself last week: “By the nick of their teeth.” A fine combination of In the nick of time and by the skin of their teeth. Barely in any case.
I was correcting myself, and my partner said–you gotta send that one in.
Overheard at work: “I have a beef to pick with you”
A malaphor of “I have a beef with you” and “I have a bone to pick with you.”
This is a good one, Diana, but I have posted it previously. See https://malaphors.com/2015/08/28/i-have-a-beef-to-pick-with-you/. Keep listening and sending them in!
“I don’t think we’re out of the woodwork on this yet…”
My manager is notorious for these things, and I heard him say this during a meeting. It was very hard to keep a straight face.
Thanks Taylor! Check out the rest of the website for more malaphors, and also my book on malaphors available on Amazon. Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205
My favourite malaphor was said by my partner, who told me the neighbour was “Not the brightest fish in the shed”. A three-way malaphor!
I think this is a malaphor, although it could also be a malaprop. My friend Moe said it yesterday, referencing one of her dogs in active mode: “He’s a bull in a china cabinet” Mix of the object china cabinet and bull in a china shop. Love the image of the surprise on opening that particular cabinet. Cheers!
Not a malaphor Steph but a good word misuse nevertheless.
Thanks, Dave. Does it get a “category” or just be a good old misuse?
Not sure of a category. Seems like a misuse of one word, so probably a malaprop.
This one is more of a Wordaphor. In a sentence I recently said “That makes me weary” but in the context of something I was nervous about. The situation itself was not physically exhausting. Apparently I combined the words “wary” and “leery.”
I do have single idiom blends that are malaphors, but the two words create a new word, sort of like a portmanteau. Yours is more of a misuse of the word wary.
Michael Cohen is “in hot soup,” a mashup of “in the soup” and “in hot water.” Here’s the full quote: “That might seem like a pretty shaky defense, even if Cohen really used his home equity line to get the funds as he claims, but it turns out to be no defense at all. Cohen should be in hot soup either way.” https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/03/if-michael-cohen-is-telling-the-truth-about-his-stormy-daniels-payment-he-can-be-disbarred.html
Hi Dave, I said this one myself today, responding to someone who was griping about a situation she didn’t like, even as she recognized the pettiness of her complaint. ” tough when there’s some bone in the matter.” Mash of bone to pick and truth in the matter
Hey Dave, I was listening to the Clark Howard podcast from 4/13/2018, when I heard Clark utter this one while discussing the insurance industry’s slow response to entering the short-term rental (i.e. AirBnB) market. He had just said the insurance companies were sitting on their hands, then shortly thereafter said, “Most insurers are just burying their hands in the sand.” Although he quickly corrected himself, it was a great Aha Moment for me.
Hope all is well with you.
When discussing a problem that we have been trying to troubleshoot for a rather long time, my coworker exclaimed “At this point we’re just shooting ourselves in the dark!”
Perhaps a bit darker than either taking shots in the dark or shooting ourselves in the feet, but it certainly got her point across.
A meeting is chaired by a particularly egotistical character who introduces a new initiative to the assembled company starting with “just to put you all in the background”.
sounds like a Freudian slip malaphor.
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