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.
Sanders, who famously called Denver “wide receiver heaven” when he arrived as part of Elway’s splashy free agency class last spring, said this was the kind of year he envisioned.
“These guys are just more experienced, these guys are quicker, so you’ve got to be able to play up to their level,” he said. “It’s not like in college, where you’re setting the level, it’s an easy job. Every day you’re going up against a guy who’s fighting for a paycheck just like you are.”
While some questioned whether Gore might be running out of steam, the Colts didn’t. Instead, after Gore initially agreed to sign with Philadelphia, Indy welcomed his change of mind.
Cornerback Alan Ball suffered a groin injury and missed the last two games, but veteran free agent acquisition Tracy Porter has stood out in his place after overcoming a preseason hamstring injury of his own.
“Thought we were ready to get over the hump, but we’re not quite there yet,” Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said, lamenting dropped passes, untimely penalties and other mistakes that undermined his team.
Over the hump seems like an acceptable idio. Is the malaphor here “setting the level” (setting the bar, to a new level)? Is that the mashup you were thinking of? Dave
Just come across your book/website. Book has similar title to mine, based on an actual individual who mangled the language on this side of the pond for many years. All profits from the book go to the Perth (Scotland) branch of Guide Dogs.
Look forward to reading yours
PS I can send you a PDF copy if you like – what address should I use for the email?
Would love to get a copy of your book. My email is email@example.com. I have been collecting malaphors for years. My book focuses only on malaphors, and not other word errors (e.g., malaprops, spoonerisms). On this side of the pond, I too knew someone (a work colleague) who mangled the language and he was my inspiration for collecting malaphors. Look forward to hearing from you. Dave
Hi Dave. Just saw this on CNN. “You put your finger on the nail.” Christiane Amanpour, CNN
Happy New Year. I saw this one today: “throwing risk to the wind.” Here’s the whole sentence: “Actually, one of the dangers is that people could be throwing risk to the wind and this thing could be a runaway.” And here’s the source: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/man-who-called-dow-20000-says-one-of-the-biggest-stock-market-dangers-in-2020-is-people-could-be-throwing-risk-to-the-wind-2020-01-06. A mashup of “throwing caution to the wind” and take your pick of risk phrases; e.g., taking a risk.
I saw a good one in today’s Daily 202: “He’s tooting that horn all the way to the bank,” a mashup of “tooting his own horn” and “laughing [or crying] all the way to the bank.” Here’s the whole quote for context: “This is going to be Biden’s last stand because he thinks that black people are going to support him just because of Barack Obama,” said Connie Breeden, an attorney in Columbia who is African American. “He’s tooting that horn all the way to the bank. But people are savvier than that.” https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?e=YmVpZ2VuQHZlcml6b24ubmV0&s=5e555749fe1ff658cabcb3bc&linknum=4&linktot=85
I just heard a reporter (Helene Cooper?) on Meet the Press say, in speaking about Senator Biden, “All the stacks are in his favor.”.
I think it’s a mixing of “The odds are in his favor” And “The cards are stacked (for or against) him.”
My doctor has been sending daily emails with COVID-19 updates. Today’s contained the malaphor, “the chips are falling apart,” a mashup of “things are falling apart” and “let the chips fall where they may.” Here’s the whole paragraph: “It’s happening. Antivirals, old drugs, and new drugs, monoclonal antibodies, filters, passive use of recovered patient serum. When the chips are falling apart, that is when we find the strength to rebuild. That is who we are.” Interestingly (or not), in 2016 chip credit cards were falling apart. https://jennstrathman.com/chip-cards-already-falling-apart/.
Also “when the chips are down”.
To add to your “wrench” malaphor collection, from today’s Washington Post: “The covid-19 thing has really thrown a wrench in us sideways.” Several choices to my ear. “Throw a wrench (or monkey wrench)” in the works.” “Knocked us sideways.” Maybe “thrown us for a loop”? I’m sure you’ll figure it out. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/it-was-worst-week-economy-decades-pain-is-just-beginning/
I’m not positive, but pretty sure this is one. From today’s headlines: “Fauci warns states rushing to reopen: ‘You’re making a really significant risk.” A mashup of “making a mistake” and “taking a risk,” no? https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/01/fauci-open-states-coronavirus/
Heard two people talking about upcoming 2020 presidential debates between Trump and Joe Biden. One person said of Trump:
“Trump’s going to eat him apart….”
This is combination of “eat him alive” and “tear him apart”
Felipe Coronel, aka Immortal Technique, interviewed on Latino USA, when asked about COVID-19 he said it “threw a monkey in the wrench”.
Hi Steve! This is a great mixup, but not sure it’s a malaphor but rather a mangling of the phrase, “throw a monkey wrench in the works”. Is there another idiom scrambled there I’m not seeing?
Saw this in the news today: “We’ll be walking a tightrope around coronavirus for some time.” A mashup of “walking a tightrope” (being extremely careful and precise) and probably “tiptoeing around” (avoiding confrontation). https://www.cnbc.com/video/2020/05/11/well-be-walking-tightrope-around-coronavirus-for-some-time-investor.html Not especially funny, but a malaphor nonetheless, I think. I thought I might be able to find a picture of a circular tightrope to send you, but couldn’t find one.
My dentist said this one this morning as he explained all the new things he has to do: “I’m still getting the ropes.” A mashup of “I’m still getting the hang of it” and “I’m still learning the ropes.”
Nice. Hope you didnt look a little “down in the tooth”
I heard a mom talking to her rambunctious child, who was over-excited and talking too loudly in public: “use your indoor words.”
She conflated, “use your words” (tell me with words what you want, rather than whining and crying); and “use your indoor voice” (speak more quietly).
not sure about the phrase “use your words”.
Here are several references to “use your words”
Got it. Thanks! Will post.
“Things kind of petered off,” a mashup of “petered out” and “tapered off.” This unfortunately comes from a sad passage in an article about Covid-19 deaths, but it’s a malaphor nonetheless. Here’s the sentence: “And then things kind of petered off a little bit in those areas, and now we’re kind of seeing it getting closer and wondering when we’re gonna have to deal with this. But again, we’re preparing for it as best as we can in the hospitals that I’m working for.” On a lighter note, I thought of finding a picture to illustrate “petered off,” but you’ll be happy to know that I thought better of it.
Here’s a link. (I’m not sure it’s going to work, because the article is for subscribers. If it does, the malaphor is in the very last paragraph.) https://link.esquire.com/view/5976491c487ccd1f468b4eedc874i.3ql/6cadebe4
From today’s Wall Street Journal: “The genie is out of the bag”. This is a quote by Devesh Shah, retired from Goldman Sachs, in an article about volatility.
Excellent! Will post soon!
Just heard on our local news. A Baltimore City DPW official was giving an update on trash/garbage pickup problems because trashmen off work as a result of the coronavirus. He said: “There is a silver lining at the end of the tunnel.”
A YouTuber talking about someone in the media:
“Not the brightest tool in the shed”
mixing “brightest lightbulb” and “sharpest tool in the shed.”
I posted this one a few years ago. Seems to be a common one based on internet hits. https://malaphors.com/2013/06/24/not-the-brightest-tool-in-the-shed/
Oops. Glad you have an attentive fanbase submitting all these crazy malaphors. Hope you haven’t forgotten about: “use your indoor words.”
Have not forgotten. Will post soon. Thanks for all your entries and help! Dave
Here’s a subtle one; in a new book from a best selling author:
on the back of his mind
combination of “on one’s mind” and “at the back of one’s mind”
That’s a good one, and very common too. I have not posted it before so will post soon. Do you know who the author is and the context?
It’s from Harlan Coban’s new book “The Boy From The Woods”. The main character seems to be thinking about his former-girlfriend. It almost seems like a typo in the book, where the main character was thinking that the girlfriend “had been on his mind”.
But, hey, the actual words written in the book are “on the back of his mind”, so who am I to argue?! Here’s more of the paragraph:
“But Wilde liked Ava. Part of him didn’t quite want to accept it, but something made him want to see her again. Ava had been on the back of his mind since yesterday at the 7-Eleven, when he’d surprised himself by suggesting they get back together again. Nothing serious.”
Just based on that, it seems like it should be one or the other, not both, with preference to “on his mind”.
Verbatim, I thought “back of his mind” was a mashup, but found out it is a legit phrase. See https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/at+the+back+of+his+mind. Other dictionaries also carry it. There’s always another one, however, waiting in the wings. Thanks again for all your contributions. Dave
On a recent Adam Carolla podcast:
“People are afraid they might get voted out into the cornfield.”
Adam Carolla was talking about people’s fear of being ostracized.
This is a strange conflation of “voted out of office” and “wished out into the cornfield” (from the famous Twilight Zone episode, “It’s A Good Life”)
This one seems intentional, given the source (a comedian). Don’t you think? Riffing on the Twilight Zone episode and our current political situation. Dave
Not really. They were having a serious conversation about cancel culture and how it is really effecting free speech.
And even if he did it on purpose, it is still a funny conflation of the two.
Hi David — not sure if a malaphor but Art Laffler on the the FOX Business Channel today at 4:35 PM said “It’s not rocket surgery.” He was talking about eliminating the employment tax.
I think a mash up of: Not rocket science and not brain surgery.
Fred, I have posted this one before on the website. It’s a pretty common one, and sometimes uttered intentionally as a joke. Dave
On a podcast about the volatile nature of today’s political environment:
“It’s like throwing a wrench in china shop.”
This is a humorous mix of “throw a wrench in the gears of…” (purposefully caused chaos) and “like a bull in a China shop” (wild, unpredictable chaos)
Saw a Tumblr screenshot about someone allegedly saying “I picked a whole *** bouquet of whoopsie-daisies”!
A combination of “oopsie-daisy” and “whoops”.
Here’s the source image: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/95/cd/9b/95cd9bc45c375b3908df6bf7fed4bc43.jpg
Also, I like making up some malaphors for my “book” (if I ever write it), can I leave a comment about them or should they be found “out in the wild” 😅😂?
Love your website! And love the concept of malaphors! Your emails about new malaphors always give me a chuckle 😀 🤩🥳
Thank you for your awesome work!!!!!! 😄
Thank you hawraf! Yes, a bonafide malaphor must be unintentional (otherwise they aren’t that funny, right?). I like to give the context and source when I post one to show that they were not made up. Also, check out my two books on malaphors. You can find them and the links on this website under sub-title “Buy the Books!” Dave
All the best!
Just watched a movie on Amazon Prime entitled “Dripping in Chocolate.” Australian police mystery. Junior detective states: “Where there is smoke they are up to their necks.” Senior detective says please don’t mix your metaphors. Not sure if this was considered a malaphor. By the way it was a good movie.
More like a mixed metaphor than a malaphor, but good nonetheless. I have a loyal following in Australia: my sister and nephew! Sure miss those mudslides in the hot tub. Cheers! Dave
Hard to tell if this is a typo or a malaphor, but from today’s NY Times, we get “biding for time,” as in: “The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences have said they won’t play in the fall. The Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences are biding for time.” The correct phrase is bidding for time, so this could be a typo, or it could be a mashup of biding their time and playing for time. You decide. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/12/sports/ncaafootball/big-12-sec-acc-season.html?campaign_id=2&emc=edit_th_20200813&instance_id=21222&nl=todaysheadlines®i_id=40019398&segment_id=35975&user_id=a9d1eebd755fb324755a825725331579
Pretty sure this is a typo instead of a malaphor. Maybe even a Freudian slip (Biding for time = “Biden for time”?). Speaking of that possiblity, what about a political eggcorn slogan: “Biden: My Time”. Worth peddling? Dave
Just heard a clip on CBS Morning show when President said: “We are rounding the turn on ….” Looks like a mashup of “rounding the corner” and “reached a curve.” Thursday, 9/3
Great fan from overseas here! but of a lurker as English is not my native language 🙂
I have a question for you. could you come up with a good metaphor for treating a toppic but not dealing with the painfull bit? I thought of “beating around the bush” but that has a connotation of not being transparant? I would like to avoid that. I am trying to write something about a legal question that holds lot of uncertainties so, as a precaution, the person involved should act in such a manner as to not end up on the wrong side (with that border being so ambiguous). “Tiptoing along the ravine/vulcano” perhaps?
Would not want to end up with a big malaphor!
Thanks in advance for your suggestions
Timo, one that comes to mind is “treat/handle (something or someone) with kid gloves”, meaning to deal with something or someone carefully or gently..
Another one to add to your “straw” collection. From today’s New York Times, “the straw that would tip me over to him.” Here’s the whole quote: “He says, ‘I condemn,’ but he doesn’t ever say what he’s going to do,” Mr. Rutherford said, adding that if Mr. Biden went further it would be “the straw that would tip me over to him.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/12/us/politics/biden-trump-poll-wisconsin-minnesota.html?campaign_id=2&emc=edit_th_20200913&instance_id=22153&nl=todaysheadlines®i_id=40019398&segment_id=37964&user_id=a9d1eebd755fb324755a825725331579
A mashup of “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and probably “tip the scales” (or tip the balance).
Thanks. This one might break my back. Will post. Dave
Heard on a political podcast warning both Democrats and Republicans to proceed with caution about the upcoming SCOTUS nomination
“Don’t hold your breath till the chickens have hatched.”
I guess the person was warning both sides to not think they are in control and know what is coming.
Still no love on this? I thought this was hilarious when I heard it.
Seems more like a mixed metaphor to me than a malaphor. Not sure where the blend is. Help me out. Dave
Both phrases allude to tempering one’s expectations, or being cautious/wary of some desired or expected outcome:
“Don’t hold your breath”
“Don’t count your chickens till the eggs have hatched.”
The person who said it got caught up on the first word, “don’t”.
This one makes my head hurt. I’m not sure what it is: “yinged and yanged.” A mashup (or maybe just some kind of invented phrase) out of “yin and yang” and “out the ying yang” (or “yin-yang”) and maybe even “yo-yoed” given this context, speaking about betting odds for the presidential election: “These changes see the gap in odds-implied probability now at 11.03 percent in Joe Biden’s favor, the largest lead he has held over Donald Trump in over a month.
“However, the two have yinged and yanged somewhat in recent weeks and Trump cannot and will not be ruled out, even with a double-digit deficit and just five weeks to go until the election.”
I leave it to you, master of the malaphor, to sort it out. Here’s the source. https://www.newsweek.com/trump-election-odds-worsen-biden-tax-returns-release-bookmakers-1534569
Seems to me the writer meant to say “zigged and zagged” so I don’t think this is a mashup. As you said, looks like an invented phrase. Dave
Hi Dave, I’m writing a paper on idiom blends and could really use your help if you’re up for it! I would not take up too much of your time, and if you’re interested, feel free to hit me up! Pe
Sure. Give me your email and/or phone number. You might want to check out my two books where I explain what malaphors are and also other “word errors”. Dave
my email is: firstname.lastname@example.org, hope we can talk!
I heard someone on NPR All Things Considered (not sure whether it was Blue Ridge Public Radio or South Carolina ETV; I have to switch stations when crossing the mountain pass) say something about “hurdles to jump through”. The topic was Cherokees growing hemp in the Qualla Boundary. One jumps through hoops, but over hurdles.
Hi Pierre! Excellent one but I have posted this one previously. See https://malaphors.com/2013/08/05/we-still-have-a-lot-of-hurdles-to-jump-through/ Lots of other “hurdle” malaphors as well. Check them out on the website. Seems to be a mental hurdle out there….Dave
I know you’ve posted this one before, but last night on “The Bachelorette,” Bachelorette Tayshia Adams told a contestant who was having trouble opening up emotionally that he was “a tough cookie to crack.” I immediately thought of you!
You’re right, Ariana. It’s a good one, but it has been posted previously. See https://malaphors.com/2014/09/27/shes-a-tough-cookie-to-crack/
You probably saw this already — President-Elect Biden today to a reporter: “God love ya, you’re a one horse pony!”
Is the “one horse pony” a mash up of “One Trick Pony” and in the spirit of the holidays a “One Horse Open sleigh”
Fred, just about to post this one as several followers noticed it. I think it is a mashup of one trick pony and one horse town, but the jingle bells song might also have been in Joe’s head!
Thanks and ho ho ho! Dave
How about “didn’t blink twice,” a mashup of “didn’t blink” and “didn’t think twice”? From Robert Reich: “Republicans didn’t blink twice when they handed out $6.3 billion in tax breaks to their wealthy corporate backers, but when it came to getting direct relief to struggling Americans $600 was the best they could do. Their priorities couldn’t be clearer.” https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/12/25/how-richest-1-percent-came-out-big-winners-covid-relief-bill
Excellent one. Will post. Dave
While watching news clips on CNN’s YouTube channel, Erin Burnett said, in reference to Trump’s defenders, that they were “trying to put up smoke flares to confuse the truth.” I think this is a mash-up of ‘putting up a smoke screen’ and ‘sending up (or firing off) a flare.’ She says this at 4 minutes into a clip entitled, ‘Photographer Snaps Notes of MyPillow CEO After Visiting Trump.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B6tawcCwo0
I hope you look into this because, as everyone knows, where there’s smoke, there’s flare.
“Funny monkey business”
I was on the train the other day day; I didn’t hear the context of the conversation, but this phrase is a combination of “funny business” and “monkey business”.
How about giving people “a shot at the pie”? From today’s WaPo Daily 202: “As one historian of conservative movements, Rick Perlstein, told my colleague Greg Sargent, Limbaugh played a central role in ‘the rise of reactionary populism. People accustomed to being on top — culturally, socially, economically — were facing an onslaught of liberation movements that were all about giving other people a fair shot at the pie.’” Seems like a mashup of “a shot at the bigtime” and “piece of the pie.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/02/18/daily-202-liz-cheney-wants-an-ideas-driven-gop-limbaugh-predicted-her-defeat/
That’s a good one and I will post toot sweet!
“Iron out the kinks”
Uttered on a YouTube channel talking about the logistics of getting food back on the shelves of Texas grocery stores after the snowstorm.
This is a conflation of “iron out the wrinkles” and “work out the kinks”.
This one is a legit idiom, believe it or not. See https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/iron+out+the+kinks
Hey Mr. Hatfield! Just heard a good malaphor, and I don’t think it’s on the website yet. I was playing online board games with my girlfriend’s family, and her aunt was making a comment about how it was too late for someone to win the game. The phrase she used was “that ship has flown!” I think it’s a combination of “that ship has sailed” and “flew the coop.” Hope you’re doing well!
This is a good one. I believe “the bird has flown” (someone escaped) is a proper idiom, and so may have been in the mix as well. Ask the speaker if she is aware of that saying. Will post soon Andy (love that name….). Dave
How about “sent an important symbol”? “Sent an important message” and perhaps “an important symbolic gesture” are probably in the mix, as you would say. From today’s Daily 202: “’The image of himself and Melania Trump getting the vaccine would have sent an important symbol, especially to any members of his base who might be skeptical of the vaccine,’ said Doug Heye, a veteran GOP communications adviser.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/03/02/daily-202-many-republicans-dont-want-coronavirus-vaccine-trump-could-change-that/
I don’t think this qualifies, as “sent an important message” is not an idiom. It’s more like a misuse of a word – symbol for message. That’s my gut reaction, but feel free to talk me out of it. Dave
No argument. “Sent a message” sounds like an idiom to me, but even if it is a malaphor, it’s not that good.
Is this a one-word malaphor or just a portmanteau word (or both)? My wife and I were just talking about what cocktail to have, and she said “I didn’t know what you had a yankering for,” a mashup of “having a yen for” and “having a hankering for.” I read your post on portmanteaus vs malaphors, and this seems to be a malaphor to me. But what do you say?
I think it is indeed a word blend malaphor and not a portmanteau. One, it was not said intentionally, and two, the combo did not create something new (e.g., fog and smoke created smog). Very funny! Yankering is now in my vocabulary. I will post soon. Hope all is well with you. Enjoy the cocktail! Dave
“Air brushed under the carpet”
This one rolls so easily. It’s like a portmanteau-phrase: “air brushed” and “brushed under the carpet”.
I overheard two women talking about some faux controversy in pop culture.
Not sure air brush is an idiom.
It’s used to whitewashing or obfuscating the truth.
Seen on a political podcast about people realizing that the media are not always honest:
“The veil is unraveling”.
Seems to be a combination of “things are unraveling” or “starting to unravel” along with “the veil is falling away”. Both mean that truth is exposed.
On CNN’s YouTube channel there’s a clip entitled ‘Ex-Fox Reporter Reveals Why Tucker Carlson Is Lying About Vaccines’. At the 1:50 mark guest Carl Cameron remarks, “This is literally the metaphor of the lemmings running to their own slaughter”, which I believe is a cross of ‘lemmings running off a cliff’ and ‘leading a lamb to slaughter’. Either way, you’re left with a bunch of dead lemmings.
Posted! Great one!
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