This is another in a series of “Maraphors”, a punny term coined by Ray Johnston describing malaphors involving horses, which it turns out is quite a few (type in horse in the search field on the website and you will see). This nice mash up of “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” (even favorable circumstances won’t force someone to do something one doesn’t want to) and “beating a dead horse” (a particular request is already resolved and any attempt to continue is futile) was uttered by mistake by malaphor follower azrielle. Thanks Azrielle for passing this one along!
Regarding the expression “beating a dead horse”, the first recorded use with its modern meaning is by British politician and orator John Bright, referring to the Reform Act of 1867, which called for more democratic representation in Parliament, an issue about which Parliament was singularly apathetic. Trying to rouse Parliament from its apathy on the issue, he said in a speech, would be like trying to flog a dead horse to make it pull a load.
Conference calls are goldmines for malaphors. This amusing ditty was heard on a conference call and Greg, a faithful malaphor follower, spotted it immediately. I’m not sure what “that” is, but it more than likely can’t be beaten with a dead horse. This is a mash up of “beat a dead horse” (waste time doing something that has already been attempted), “can’t beat (or top) that” (no one can do better than that) and the extension of the latter, “you can’t beat that with a stick” (no one can do better than that). A stick might be used to prod a horse so the speaker might have had a vision of using a stick to flog or beat a dead horse.
This is a conflation of “beat a dead horse” and “sound like a broken record’, both meaning to do or say the same thing over and over again. The best malaphors are the ones mixing similar meaning phrases, and this is a good example. Kudos to Kevin Hatfield for uttering this unintentional masterpiece, and to Justin Taylor for recognizing it.
This malaphor is a mash up of “reinvent the wheel” (make unnecessary preparations) and “beat a dead horse” (waste time trying to do something that will not succeed), both involving wasted time. A big shout out to Cecily for providing this beauty.