At the drop of a beat AND Hold the brakes

Double malaphor!! This is as rare as a double rainbow sighting.  Both of these malaphors were heard on one episode of the NBC show First Dates.  “At the drop of a beat” is a congruent conflation of “at the drop of a hat” and “in a heartbeat”, meaning to do something immediately.  Hat and heart might be the culprits here, and perhaps the speaker thinking of the slang phrase “dropping a beat”, meaning to play a beat.  See

“Hold the brakes” is another congruent conflation of “hit the brakes” and “hold your horses”, both meaning to stop something.  Hold and hit are probably the culprits in this mashup.  Outstanding work goes to Steve Grieme for hearing both of these, sending them in, and offering the above deconstruction of each phrase.  Steve is now given the official title of “Malaphor Man”.

At the drop of a whim

This beauty was heard on TMZ.  It is a mash up of “at the drop of a hat” (doing something immediately) and “on a whim” (impulse).  Both expressions indicate doing something quickly without thinking, making it a congruent conflation.  Both expressions begin with prepositions indicating location, adding to the confusion.  Perhaps the thinker was also thinking of the brim (rhyming with whim) of a hat.  A big thanks to Vicki Kovacs for hearing this one and passing it on!

It’s just a drop in the hat

This may be the mother of all malaphors, given the amount of hits on google where writers unintentionally use this blended idiom when they meant to say “drop in the bucket”.  This of course is a mash up of “a drop in the bucket” (an insignificant contribution to a larger problem) and “at the drop of a hat” (immediately), two distinctively different idioms.  The confusion lies in the use of the two articles the and a, the two prepositions in and of, and also the words bucket and hat, both containers.  Actually, buckets are sometimes used for hats, as in the case of the guitarist Buckethead. 

English: Buckethead in concert at Neumos in Se...

English: Buckethead in concert at Neumos in Seattle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)