Looking to strike some lightning in a bottle

This malaphor was found on a website discussing the New York Yankees, pinstripealley.com. The author was talking about the Yankees signing Shelby Miller. It’s a conflation of “strike gold” (become rich or successful by finding or doing something) and “catch lightning in a bottle” (achieve at something that is incredibly difficult). Both phrases involve an achievement. Also, there are “lightning strikes” so the author may have been a little dyslexic here. The website page link is here:


A big thank you to Ron MacDonald for spotting this one and sending it in.

I had to shake the waters

A salesman was upset about a company not performing their duties timely, and so he needed to prompt them to act. He then uttered this incongruent conflation of “muddy the waters” (introduce something to an issue that will make it less clear) and “shake (one’s) tree” (to compel someone to take action). “Test the waters” (to experiment) might also be in the mix. Props to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and sending it in.

Pieczenik goes on to hit the ball out of the fences every single time

This one was found in a Daily Beast article about Ginni Thomas’s (wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) election fraud claims. It was uttered by comedian Jordan Holmes:

it is a conflation of “swing for the fences” (to act or perform with great energy and effort) and “hit it out of the park” (perform something extraordinarily well). Both are idioms related to baseball, which no doubt caused the mental mixup. A big thank you to John Kooser for spotting this one.

I wouldn’t trust her with a 10 foot pole

This one was heard on Dateline NBC: The Officer’s Wife at 1:22:00:


It is a mashup of “not touch (someone or something) with a 10 foot pole” (not wanting to become involved with someone or something) and “would not trust (someone) as far as I could throw (them)” (no trust at all). Trust and touch are the same length and similar sounding, adding to the mental mixup. Also the speaker may have been thinking of the Scottish sport, Caber Tossing, where one throws a 20 foot long log. A big thank you to Frank King for spotting this one and sending it in!

We all have to learn to roll with the cards we have been dealt

This is very good malaphor philosophy. It was found on the New York Times Cooking website:

It is a conflation of “roll with the punches” (cope with adversity by being flexible) and “play the hand (one) is dealt” (to accept or make the most of the current situation). Both phrases involve facing a problem or situation. The poster must have been thinking of recipe cards when she wrote this nice mashup. A big thanks to Martin Pietrucha for spotting this beauty.

I’m making a downposit

This single word blend malaphor is a conflation of “down payment” and “deposit”. Both are banking terms and certainly a down payment is a deposit of some kind.

Word blends are types of malaphors and the website and books have many examples.

Someone asked me if my word blend malaphors are actually portmanteaus. I don’t think so. The main difference is that a portmanteau is an intentional word blend while a malaphor is unintentional.  There are other differences:

A portmanteau is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes, and their definitions, into one new word. A portmanteau word generally combines both sounds and meanings, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog. More generally, it may refer to any term or phrase that combines two or more meanings, for instance, the term “wurly” when describing hair that is both wavy and curly.

The word “portmanteau” was first used in this context by Lewis Carroll in the book Through the Looking-Glass (1871), in which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky, where “slithy” means “lithe and slimy” and “mimsy” is “flimsy and miserable”. Humpty Dumpty explains the practice of combining words in various ways by telling Alice,

‘You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.’

My single word blend malaphors are unconscious blends of words to make an unintentional new word. The word sounds or looks correct at first blush, but then on closer examination is incorrect. Examples include “Buckminster Palace” (Buckingham and Westminster, and/or possibly Buckminster Fuller) and “split-minute decision” (split second and last minute).

A big thanks to Elliot Arshan for unintentionally saying this one and sending it in.

I wonder if he will bite the bait

Harvey Levin, host of TMZ, was musing about Elon Musk wanting to fight Putin, and uttered this nice alliterative congruent conflation of “take the bait” and “bite”, both meaning to respond to a come-on. It might refer to a hungry fisherman. A big thanks to Vicki Ameel-Kovacs for hearing this one!

LAS VEGAS, NV – SEPTEMBER 30: TMZ Executive Producer Harvey Levin unveils IGT’s TMZ Video Slots at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2015 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center on September 30, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)

At the leap of a hat

This is a nice mashup of “at the drop of a hat” (freely, immediately; with little provocation) and “a leap of faith” (acceptance of an idea largely on faith). “A leap in the dark” (doing something without knowing the consequences) might also be in the mix. A big thanks to George Mikalis for uttering this one unintentionally and sending it in.

Security is tight as a whistle

Daymond John, CEO of FUBU and one of the sharks on Shark Tank, was talking to some contestants who had snuck two big trash bags into a Phoenix Suns game. John replied that “security is tight as a whistle” there. This is a mashup of “tight as a drum” (sealed tight) and “clean/slick as a whistle” (completely, entirely – also well-behaved and not involved in illegal activity). John was of course thinking of just the word “tight” as in “security is tight” but apparently wanted to add a simile. Tight security means the place is “clean” so that might be where the mental mixup originated. A big thanks to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one!

Lead it away with your questions

A guy on a conference call started a meeting with this congruent conflation of “take it away” and “lead off”, both invitations to begin something. Nothing like a nice congruent conflation to start the weekend. A tip of the hat to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and sending it in.