2020 Malaphor of the Year – Number 4

Breadearner (submitted May 2020)

Because this is a near perfect congruent word blend conflation, I chose this as Number 4 in the countdown.   It is a word blend malaphor of “breadwinner” (a person who earns money to support a family) and “wage earner” (a person who works for a salary).  My wife said this one when discussing a spouse who was earning most of the money in the household.

Word blends are a special subsection of malaphors and I have posted many of them.  Just type word blend in the Search feature on the website.  Also, I have a chapter devoted to these special malaphors in my book, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon for cheap!

He’s paid his time

Ali Velshi on MSNBC was talking about pardons, and those who should be pardoned. He then uttered this nice congruent conflation of “done (one’s) time” and “paid (one’s) dues/debts”, both meaning to have served a sentence. A tip of the Santa hat to Frank King for hearing this one and sending it in.

2020 Malaphor of the Year – Number 5

Shoot from the shoulder – submitted September 2020

Number 5 in the countdown came from the mouth of Joe Biden. At his town hall he said:

“You’ve got to level with the American people — shoot from the shoulder. There’s not been a time they’ve not been able to step up. The president should step down,” the Democratic presidential nominee said to applause from a CNN drive-in town hall crowd Thursday night in Moosic, outside his hometown of Scranton.


This is an excellent example of an incongruent conflation (unintentional blend of two or more idioms with opposite meanings). “Straight from the shoulder” (simple, direct, and forthright) is what the speaker meant to say, and this was mixed with  “shoot from the hip” (to speak rashly or recklessly).  Several people reported this one, including Bruce Ryan, Pamela Pankey, John Pekich, and Kathy Meinhardt.

2020 Malaphor of the Year – Number 6

2020 has been an unusual year, but the Malaphor of the Year countdown tradition continues.  This year has been a great one for idiom mashups. In the past, I have narrowed the nominations down to five, but this year the competition was so stiff that I added a sixth nomination.  So without further ado (drum roll please), let the countdown begin with Number 6:

Trump’s going to eat him apart (submitted May 2020)

As you can imagine, the election was fertile ground for malaphors. This one involved two people talking about the upcoming 2020 presidential debates between Trump and Joe Biden. One person said of Trump: “Trump’s going to eat him apart….”  This is a nice congruent conflation of “eat him alive” and “tear him apart”, both meaning to overwhelm and defeat or dominate another.  “Eat his lunch” might also be in the mix, as it has the same meaning as the conflated idioms.  My guess is that Biden might be a little tough to chew.  A big thank you to Verbatim for sending Number 6 in!

Get this deal done at the end of the wire

This one comes from Politico’s Anna Palmer, heard on Morning Joe. She was talking about the midnight deadline for the COVID relief bill. This is a conflation of “at the end of the day” (ultimately) and “down to the wire” (until the last possible moment). Is it me or is “at the end of the day” the most overused phrase on television these days? A pundit can’t finish a sentence without uttering it. Apparently others are in agreement:

A big thanks to Frank King and Jim Kozlowski for hearing this one and sending it in!

You’re a one-horse pony

Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked President-elect a question : “Mr. President-elect, do you still think that stories about your son Hunter were Russian disinformation?” Biden responded, “Yes, yes and yes. God love you, man. You’re a one-horse pony, I tell ya.” Here’s the exchange:


This is a great mashup of “one-trick pony” (someone who is limited to one talent or repeats the same thing) and “one-horse town” (small, unimportant place). Both have the word “one” in them and of course are tied with the equestrian theme. Since this was uttered just a few days before Christmas, the song “Jingle Bells” and “a one-horse open sleigh” might have been on the President-elect’s mind. A tip of the Santa toque to Bruce Ryan who spotted this one first. Others who sent this one in include Ron MacDonald, nutshell_blogger, Robert McLaughlin (via Steve Grieme) and Fred Martin. They are all certainly not one-horse ponies!

They turned up the notch

Stephen Bardo, former NBA star and now basketball analyst for Fox Sports One, was commenting at the end of the Indiana/Butler basketball game how Indiana came back strong in the second half. This is a mashup of “turn up the heat” and “take it up a notch”, both meaning to do something with more determination or intensity. This is a classic congruent conflation, mixing two similar meaning idioms together. They tend to be subtle and therefore a little more difficult to spot. Kudos to Bruce Ryan for hearing this one and calling it in.

All that and a bowl of chips

Al Sharpton said this one on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. It is a nice mashup of “all that and a bag of chips” (something very special) and “bowl of cherries” (very pleasant, wonderful). This one is close to a congruent conflation as both idioms refer to something positive. Sharpton might have been thinking about that ubiquitous bowl of potato or tortilla chips parked on the cocktail table for Sunday football.

The phrase “all that and a bag of chips” appears to be new slang, with origins perhaps as recent as the 90s. The phrase is credited to Subway, where initially a bag of chips was included in the price, so you got “all that and a bag of chips.” A big shout out to Mike Kovacs who heard this one and texted it in.

I’m in hog city

The speaker was enjoying himself, and unintentionally uttered this perfectly formed congruent conflation of “in hog heaven” and “fat city”, both meaning pleasant situations (the latter usually referring to a state of wealth). “Living high off the hog” (to prosper or live very well) could also be in the mix, as it has the same meaning as “fat city”. A big thanks to Bill Belanger for blurting out this one and sending it in! Oink oink.

When this deadline is crossed

This is another mashup from the Merry Malaphorer, Kasie Hunt, heard on MSNBC. It is a conflation of “cross the finish line” (complete a task) and “deadline is passed/missed” In doing a little research on this malaphor, I came across an interesting article on the origin of “deadline” and what “crossing a deadline” literally meant a line or ditch drawn or dug within or around a prison that a prisoner passes at the risk of being shot. Andersonville had such a deadline. Here is the link to the article:


A big thanks to Frank King who heard this one and passed it on!