I’m fuming at the mouth

This is a congruent conflation of “fuming over (someone or something)” and “foaming at the mouth”, both meaning to be extraordinarily angry.  The context makes sense:  the speaker was trying to make a left turn against oncoming traffic and said, “”I’ll call you back in a minute. I’m fuming at the mouth trying to make this left turn”.   “Running on fumes” also may be in the mix, as car fumes might certainly have been on her mind as well.  A big thanks to Joseph Newcomer for sending this one in!

I’m as happy as a clam in clover

This alliterative congruent conflation is a mash up of “happy as a clam” and “happy as a pig in clover” or “in clover”, all meaning to be in a pleasant situation.  I’m not sure you can be happier than this description.  Ordinarily the clam would be happiest at high tide, a normal extension of that phrase.  But perhaps the clam reveling in clover is the height of pleasure.  A big thanks to Lou Pugliese for hearing his Dad utter this beauty and passing the malaphor on to me.

Old dogs rarely change their spots

Sometimes my malaphor scouts come across a juicy one in one of the books they are reading.  That’s what happened when Steve Hubbard discovered this gem in the “Hour Game” by David Baldacci.  Sean King, a major character in the book, utters this mash up:

“If I told you we had information they’d had a knock-down-drag-out three or four years ago over Bobby’s sleeping around, would that surprise you?”  “No. He had that reputation. Some people thought he was over it, but old dogs rarely change their spots.”

This is a mash up of  “a leopard doesn’t change its spots” (a person’s character, especially if it is bad, will not change, even if they pretend it has)  and ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” (it is difficult to make someone change the way they do something when they have been doing it the same way for a long time).  Both expressions describe people set in their ways, making this a congruent conflation.  And of course Mr. King was referring to that old two timin’ dog Bobby.  Thanks again to Steve Hubbard for passing this one along!

Dalmatian The Black Spotted Dog

I’m walking on ice with you

Sounds like a song title, but it actually is a malaphor.  The speaker meant to say eggshells instead of ice, and wound up mixing the phrases “walking on eggshells” (try very hard not to upset someone) and “walking (or skating) on thin ice”” (risky situation).  The mix up is probably due to ice and eggshells both being easily breakable.  Also, if you don’t walk on eggshells with a person who is upset you might be skating on thin ice!  A big thank you to Paula Fow for sending this one in.


Walking on Thin Ice

Might the roosters be guarding the henhouse?

Ah yes, the mixed up world we live in, particularly we baby boomers.  This phrase was written in a letter to the editor of The Daily Progress, a Charlottesville Virginia newspaper (wahoo wah).  The writer was discussing how a natural gas pipeline was going to go through her property and that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves these 99% of the time.   The malaphor is a mash up of  “the fox guarding the henhouse” (a job assigned to a person who is exploiting it to his own ends) and “the chickens come home to roost” (facing the consequences of one’s own misdeeds).   Thanks to Jack Knoll for sending this one in!


Does he think I just fell from the turnip tree?

The turnip truck idiom seems to be a tough one to remember and say correctly, as it was the subject of another malaphor posted last December, “I wasn’t born off the turnip truck” (December 7, 2013).   This new one appears to be a mash up of “fallen off the turnip truck” (someone unsophisticated or naiive) and “the apple does not fall far from the tree”  (inherited personality traits).  Perhaps “to fall off the wagon”  (back to drinking after a period of abstinence)  might be in the mix as well.  A tip of the hat to John Costello who admits he blurted this one out.

These folks are trying to advance this niche of the pie

A subtle but proper malaphor, this is a mash up of “carve out a niche” (supplying a product for a particular segment of the market) and “a piece of the pie” (a share of something).  The mind might be visualizing carving a pie and hence the mix up.  Also both expressions concern a focus on a small part of a greater whole.  I think the next time I order dessert I will ask for a niche of pie, and see what reaction I get.  If the waiter quickly writes down the expression I will know the malaphor love is spreading.  A big thanks to Martin Pietrucha for hearing this one and sharing it with malaphor central.

Description Pumpkin-Pie-Whole-Slice.jpg


You run a hard ship

This subtle malaphor is a mash up of “you run a tight ship” (run an organization with discipline and order) and “you drive a hard bargain” (work hard to negotiate a price).  The speaker meant to say “you run a tight ship”.  The crossed wires might stem from the words “hard” and “tight”, or perhaps with “run” and “drive”, both action verbs.  The words “hard” and “ship” together might also be in play.  Thanks to Kevin Hatfield for passing this one along (and thanks to Ben Geier’s friend for saying it!).

She raked his name over the coals

My wife interrupted one of my rants the other night to point out that I had uttered a malaphor.  Of course I immediately stopped blabbering and wrote it down.  This one is a bit subtle, combining “rake him over the coals” (to scold) and “drag his name through the mud” (disparage someone publicly).  One positive about getting older is that it comes with more malaphors.

I think I have put in my stripes

Subtlety makes the best malaphor.  When spoken, you pause and consider if  the phrase was correct.  It is a passing thought, because you will quickly forget it.  Today’s malaphor fits that bill.  The speaker was explaining why he should retire.  It is a mash up of “earned my stripes” and “put in my time”, both meaning hard work that deserves an award.  Kudos to Ed Brady for sending me this congruent conflation!