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.
This may not be a true malaphor, but my college roommate’s father was from Greece and when he was angry he would say (yell) the most hilarious things. One day he was particularly riled up about Something and he yelled in his Greek accent, “I’’m going to take the bull by the horns, and shove it, and ram it down your throat!” We still laugh about this 20-some years later.
I like it, but alas it is considered a mixed metaphor and not a malaphor (the former being several metaphors linked together and the latter a blend of two or more idioms). Thanks for viewing the blog! Tell your friends!
Said “interest-grabbing” today, realised an hour or two later that I had mixed up attention-grabbing and interesting/caught my interest 🙂
Love the website, but…. ‘Running point’ is a basketball term.
I thought of that, but it is “running the point” as the basketball expression, not “running point”. Subtle difference, but I think the speaker was confusing running interference so I think it is a good malaphor. If she had said, “Ty Cobb is running the point”, I would agree with you.
“Admittedly he’s bald as a bat” – Work colleague attempting to describe why a helmet might feel uncomfortable for a customer.
I’m pretty sure this is a malaphor, but it’s difficult to piece together: “shudder in its tracks.” Here’s the full quote: “That ruthlessly efficient system helped bubonic plague kill nearly 25 million people and made the ancient world shudder in its tracks during the Justinian plague of 541–542.” I’m thinking it’s a mashup of “shudder to think” and “freeze in its tracks.” Don’t know why, but it also reminds me of “shiver in their boots.” https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/06/4000-year-old-genomes-point-to-origins-of-bubonic-plague/
I haven’t sent you one in a while. This one is from a PTI discussion today about the Lakers & LeBron James’ free agency. Wilbon reported that Magic Johnson [the Lakers’ director of basketball operations] stated that they are not putting all their marbles in one basket. Even Kornheiser noticed that it should have been eggs, not marbles!
Hope all is well.
Parents should stick to their ground involving kids’ names.
Robert Myers commenting on Quota.
Edit: that should be Quora
A physician I work with just asked if would do a fellowship – “I’m trying to keep an open book”.
“Keep an open mind” and “I’m an open book”
“I’ll drop you like a rental car”.
Possible malaphor mash up of the expressions, “drop you like a sack of potatoes” and “Drive it like a rental car”
Small Town Crime Wave from 5-21-18 Appleton, WI, United States / 105.7 WAPL – Wisconsin’s Rock Station http://www.wapl.com/2018/05/21/7048/
May 19th City of Green Bay
Police received a report of a man holding a sign with swear words on it on Shadow Lane. When someone confronted the man about the sign, he reportedly acted like he had a gun in his pocket and told the person who confronted him, “I’ll drop you like a rental car”.
I have heard of the expression “drive it like you stole it” but never “drive it like a rental car”. Is that a local expression?
“We would have been kicking ourself in the foot if we hadn’t already done the research and proven that this was safe,” Brown said. — hehe. From business Insider article on the heme ingredient in Impossible burgers. Combines “shooting ourselves in the foot” unintentional self-inflicted injury with “kicking ourselves” self-flagellation as punishment. Imagine a foot kicking itself. Impossible!
Bob, this is a great one but sadly I have already used it. See https://malaphors.com/2017/10/12/they-keep-kicking-themselves-in-the-foot/
“I’ve just spent the last thirty years busting my arse off” – Gordon Ramsay on the Masterclass trailer… made me chuckle… https://www.masterclass.com/classes/gordon-ramsay-teaches-cooking
My late friend Lola was full of these malaphors and kept us helpless with laughter on many an occasion. How about this one: “Sorry, I couldn’t tell you – not off the cuff of my head”. Or when her husband slipped and fell in the snow: “He went down like a cropper!” And she would regularly just use the wrong word: “HIV is a big problem … even extraterrestrials are getting it now” … oh, I have a list of them!
Victor, Lola sounds great! Off the cuff of my head has previously been posted – https://malaphors.com/2013/08/19/off-the-cuff-of-my-head/ The other is a malaprop, not a malaphor. If you send me some other Lolaisms, however, I will be happy to post them! Dave
Years ago I heard “Let’s talk about the 80 pound elephant in the room”…which is a combo of 800 pound gorilla and elephant in the room. The 80 pound piece made it just that more entertaining (at a business meeting)
Yes, that’s a good one for sure. I posted the “heavier” kind on the website, and actually devoted a whole chapter to “elephant malaphors” (who knew?) in my book. https://malaphors.com/2015/03/30/its-the-800-pound-elephant-in-the-room/ Dave
During an interview on MSNBC on Sunday, 9/9/18, it sounded like Omarosa Manigault Newman said “They want to take me to bat”. I think she was mixing up “take me to task” with somebody’s “turn at bat”. Is this a malaphor?
Fox News article about Wendy’s employees making a blind couple’s eating experience good uses the phrase:
Struck a heartstring with many
Im at work and a colleague of mine at was talking about an Andy Kaufman bit that had an audience in “floods of laughter”
PS, I bloody love this webiste
Good one. Will post.
I would love to see a page that’s just the list of malaphors where you can view them in a dictionary style, instead of having to scroll through the years. Then clicking the malaphor could jump to the relevant section back in the main view.
Additional malaphor: Don’t shoot all your fish in one barrel.
Excellent idea Sean. Will take some work but I agree it would be much easier to read and find malaphors on the site. Dave
My husband worked with a woman who was always dropping malaphors! Here is one of my favorites. “That really threw a wrench in the monkey works.”
While I like this, it actually isn’t a malaphor but rather one phrase jumbled (monkey should go before wrench instead of works). However, I have posted a good malaphor on the subject: https://malaphors.com/2013/02/08/he-really-threw-a-monkey-wrench-into-that-fire/ Please send in more Brenda that your husband’s co-worker says. Thanks so much for supporting malaphors! Dave
Dave, I have another
While doing some research on a company at work, I came across a disgruntled previous employee leaving a bitter review of his/her previous employer. The title of her rant about the company not living up to promises was “Just read between the Lies”
Funny one, but not really a malaphor. It is more of a malaprop (insertion of wrong word with similar sound). In this case, lies for lines. Dave
Ahh, I guess so. Will remain vigilant…
“Pulled a rabbit out of his head”
‘Pulls a rabbit out of his head:’ Jason Witten teased for gaffe
Not sure this is a malaphor, but rather the speaker confusing head for hat.
I think this is a conflation of “Pull a rabbit of of a hat” and “Off the top of my head”, so I think it would qualify as a malaphor.
By the way, there is a useful site at,
for checking on the existence and meaning of idioms.
Brilliant! All of these are simply brilliant. Thank you for taking the time to bring all these gems together, they made my day. I was curious about a mate’s mixed up malaphor “shooting yourself in the foot to spite your face” and a quick googling brought me here. Fantastic.
Thanks Claire! You’re the top of the notch!
Hope you are keeping well.
I have a colleague who seems to have a never ending supply of these, his most recent being ‘it’s better than a kick in the eye with a sharp stick’.
He also recently came up with the gem ‘you have to fill your boots whilst the hay shines’.
Hope at least one of those meets your approval, best wishes, Eric.
Not sure if these are malaphors, but these still crack me up decades later, uttered by a silly friend;
Work; its a job in itself.
I read a great book; “Women who Dance with the Wolves.”
Mash up of the book, “Women who Run with the Wolves” and the movie, “Dances with Wolves”.
Sometimes when I pass by a mirror, I catch myself looking out of the corner of my eye and can’t turn away.
Thanks for sharing Saralee! While the first and third are not malaphors (the first seems like a Yogi Berraism), the second is indeed a mashup of two books and therefore is a malaphor. Dave
Got one, hot off the presses: “boiled to a head.” Here’s the full context: “Sunday’s Bills-Jaguars game started off tense when Jalen Ramsey took time from his busy day to remind Buffalo’s players they were trash. That conflict boiled to a head in the third quarter when a brawl erupted on the turf at New Era Field.” The mashup is obvious–boiled over and came to a head. Here’s the citation: https://www.sbnation.com/2018/11/25/18111422/jaguars-bills-fight-leonard-fournette-shaq-lawson.
Also possibly, “came to a boil.” Cheers.
My mother used the following two:
“Don’t chew with your mouth full”, and
“Don’t talk with your mouth open.”
The person was probably joking, but today I heard someone say,
Beat two deal bulls with one horn
This is a triple combination:
Kill two birds with one stone
Beat a dead horse
Take the bull by the horns
Actually, that should be:
Beat two dead bulls with one horn
sounds a little too convoluted to be unintentional.
Back in the late 80s, when describing a poor choice of paint colour on a porch, an old friend of mine observed, “It stuck out like a sore eye!”; a phrase that has given me decades of pleasure.
I was talking to some of my friends about a parent video game company, Activision, losing one of its developer teams, Bungie, and their intellectual property “Destiny” and how now Bungie can develop on Destiny how they see fit without Activision “breathing down their throat”. Seems very uncomfortable to me.
Love this one and the image, Cruuvo. However, I have posted this one before (It must be a common one). Thanks for following the website and please send in more malaphors that you hear! Dave
Sorry that I’m not providing a malaphor, I’ve posted some on Reddit but can’t think of one’s I’ve heard in real life off the tip of my tongue… (came up with that one as I was writing this haha). Anyway, just wanted to say, Davemalaphor you are a legend! You’re still so active and I love it! Thanks so much for your commitment to the malaphor.
Heard on CNN March 19, 2019. The speaker was a member of the House of Representatives:
“That’s a can of worms that we don’t want to go down.”
A mashup of “can of worms” and “a road that we don’t want to go down.”
While this is a funny expression and tortured for sure, I think it is a mixed metaphor and not a malaphor. A malaphor blends two idioms while a mixed metaphor tacks on two or more idioms in a sentence that are sometimes unrelated. Now if the speaker said “this is a ball of worms” (can of worms and ball of wax) that would be a malaphor. Dave
Heard this one today in a meeting. Someone was describing a failed product launch and said: “It landed with a dud”
A mixup of “It landed with a thud” and “it was a dud”.
“I smell a fish…” – Simon of Australia, 12th March 2019
Not sure if this is complete or not, Claire. What is the conflation?
Woops sorry, more info. This is a mix up of “I smell a rat” and “there’s something fishy going on here”.
I just saw a tweet where someone mentioned “kicking up the daisies” – I’m assuming that this is a malaphor of “pushing up daisies” and “kicking the bucket”. It may also be influenced by the fact that there is a band called “kicking daisies”. The tweet is here, for reference: https://twitter.com/annamaclurex/status/1106972374631628800
Good one! Will post soon. Should I give you props with the title “bittenbyfrost”? Dave
Yes, that is fine 🙂
Heard someone say “swallow the bullet” while watching RuPaul Drag Race Season 4 All Stars, Episode 2. Thought it was a perfect one!
Jack, this is an excellent one, but I actually posted it previously. Here’s the link: https://malaphors.com/2012/12/31/its-time-to-swallow-the-bullet/
However, keep sending them in! Dave
Just heard on 710 WOR in New York City:
“In the mind of the beholder”.
Seems to be a combination of either “in one’s own mind” or “in the mind’s eye” along with “in the eye of the beholder”.
“This cash cow hasn’t laid its last golden egg.”
Heard on a blog talking about the movie Avengers: Endgame just being a money grab.
That appears to be a mixed metaphor (two metaphors stuck together) as opposed to a malaphor (blend of two idioms or metaphors).
On the Youtube channel “Film Theory” the host was making a point that some movies are just too long and said,
“Brevity is next to Godliness”
A conflation of “brevity is the soul of wit” and “cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
I think I found one on Daily Kos: “[Nancy] Pelosi has all these chairs on a tight rope,” a mashup of “walking a tightrope” and “on a tight leash.” Yes? https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/6/5/1862845/-NY-Offers-Chairman-Neal-Trump-s-Tax-Returns-Neal-Says-No-Thanks-Unbelievable
Yes! Excellent one. Leashes and ropes are similar….
I’m not sure about this one, but it sure seems like a malaphor: “the other side of the stick.” Here’s the full quote for context: “Unfortunately, the Democrats, some of them will say, ‘We can’t wait to win in 2020, take it back and gerrymander the hell out of them’,” said Phillips. “Now, that’s not what I want, but it’s out there, and it’s playing in the minds of the majority party. If you are the majority party and you don’t do reform, one day you might be on the other side of the stick.” I’m pretty sure this is not a real phrase, although I found two references to it on the Internet. I think the speaker was possibly mixing up “the other side of the fence” with various “stick” phrases, like “other end of the stick” or “short end of the stick.” But I leave it to you, King of the Malaphors, to decide if this is anything. Here’s the source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/27/us-supreme-court-2020-election-gerrymandering.
I think it’s a good one. Maybe “other side of the coin” might be in play as well?
I think so.
The Malaphorer in Chief uttered another one, I believe. Discussing his idea to purchase Greenland, he said: ““It’s not number one on the burner, I can tell you that.” A mashup of “it’s not number one on the list” and “not on the front burner.” Yes? https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/kudlow-says-white-house-is-looking-at-trying-to-buy-greenland/2019/08/18/ab367b6c-c1bb-11e9-b5e4-54aa56d5b7ce_story.html, and probably other sites as well.
Want a malaphore (sp)? I think this is one…
A woman on (surprise!) MSNBC just said, “They have a history of just throwing things at the wall to see what works.” Nobody blinked, just moved on. 😁
Don’t know her name. Said it about 1:30 pm PST.
Cathryn, of course the proper idiom is “throw things at the wall and see what sticks”. While the latter part of the idiom wasn’t mentioned, not sure what the mashup is.
How about “a den of vipers,” as in “The President is having to deal with a den of vipers”? A mashup of “a den of thieves” (possibly, but not likely, “den of iniquity” and a hint of “lion’s den”) and “nest of vipers.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/08/14/evangelicals-view-trump-their-protector-will-they-stand-by-him/?wpisrc=nl_rainbow&wpmm=1
Another one from me again. My co-worker and I were talking about a situation that we didn’t need to talk about anymore. In order to signal it was time to wrap things up I said “Let’s put this horse to bed.”
The Democrat Party is literally groveling at the mouth.
From the Daily Caller, Sept. 5, 2017
Nice! Will post.
Thanks Ralph. Posted this one today. Dave
A lecturer at my university said that a woman was really “bridging the fences” today – I assume it’s a blend of bridging the gap and straddling the fence!
This is my own (though I wouldn’t be surprised if others have thought of it):
Wake up and smell the handwriting on the wall!
“Running away from the charts”
TV host interviewing an author, and commenting on the author’s successful book (on the NY Times bestseller list).
Seems to be a combination of “run away with (it)” (have a lot of success) and “off the charts” (spectacular).
I’m not sure if this counts exactly, but in this video, Chris Fleming says “keep the ball in the air” at around 1:46 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB4gIRunnhM)
In context, this seems to be a mixture of “keeping balls in the air” i.e. juggling multiple activites, and “keep the ball rolling”, meaning to keep the momentum of the conversation.
Not sure this is one. Seems like a singular of the accepted idiom to me.
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