Why climate change deniers are running out of rope

This is actually the title of an article in The Guardian:

It is a mashup of “running out of time” (to no longer have any time left to finish an activity) and, based on the context,  I believe “on the ropes” (close to defeat).  “At the end of (one’s) rope” (completely worn out) might also be in the mix as both idioms refer to the end of an activity.  A big thanks to John Kooser who spotted this one in plain sight.


They’ll be coming with guns out

The speaker (contributor’s mom) was referring to Republicans when she heard that an impeachment inquiry on Trump was starting.  This is a mashup of “with all guns blazing” (forcefully and with a strong sense of purpose)  and “knives out” (people eager to criticize another).  Perhaps in this era “guns out” is more appropriate than knives.  A big thanks to Sandor Kovacs who heard this one and passed it on.

He would do fine if he keeps his eyes on the wheel

This one was uttered by a witness in a trial.  It is a conflation of “keep your eyes on the ball” (stay focused) and I think “put your shoulder to the wheel” (work hard, put an effort into something).  Certainly one has to keep their eyes open when driving, but don’t stare at the wheel or you will be in big trouble.  Perhaps the speaker was thinking “eyes on the prize”, and the big Wheel of Fortune bubbled up in his brain.  Not sure.  A big thanks to Tom Justice who heard this one and passed it on.

You know how to beat a dead horse in the mouth

Another horse malaphor.  This one is a mashup of “beat a dead horse” (to continue to focus or talk about something) and I think “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” (if you receive a gift, accept it graciously).  “Horse” is the common denominator here.  “Shoot off (one’s) mouth” or “diarrhea of the mouth” could also be in the mix, both meaing to be an excessive talker.  That fits with “beat a dead horse”.

By the way, idioms that include the word “horse” are for some reason continually mixed up.  See my website and type in “horse”.  You will be amazed.  A big thanks to Thomas Smith for sending this one in.

They will kick the can down the bucket

The speaker was talking about whether the EU would give England another extension on Brexit, and that more than likely an extension would be approved.  This is a mashup of “kick the can down the road” (to postpone or defer a definitive action) and “kick the bucket” (to die).  “Kick” is the common word here, and “cans” and “buckets” are similar objects which probably led to the mixup.   I can’t help think that also the “ck” sound might have muddied the mental waters.  A big thanks to Nate Shand for uttering this one and then allowing me to share it with the malaphor world.

She was bridging the fences

A University lecturer said that one of her students uttered this one.  This is a mashup of “bridge the gap” (make it easier for two groups to communicate with each other) and “straddle the fence” (not to take a side when presented with two or more options).  “Fences” and “bridges” are often mixed up, apparently.  See, e.g.,

A big thanks to K. Carver for hearing this one and passing it on!


This is a way for them to get a piece of the slice

This was heard on NPR’s Marketplace on 9/24.  Vivian Ho, Director of the Center for Health and Biosciences at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, was talking about why retailers like Walmart are getting into the health care business. “…this is a way for them to get a piece of that slice….”  This is an interesting one, as both phrases contain a word that the malaphor omits – “pie”.  It is a congruent conflation of “getting a piece of the pie” and “getting a slice of the pie (or cake)”, both meaning to obtain a share of some benefit.  Or maybe the speaker meant to get a really small share of something?  Probably not, if it involves Walmart.  You can hear the malaphor at 15:45:

A big thanks to David Barnes, who heard this one and shared a slice of the fun. @Marketplace @VivianHo