I don’t want to open up that hill of worms

This is a mash up of “opening up a can of worms” (a situation that once started will have a negative outcome) and “doesn’t amount to a hill of beans” (a negligible amount).  For some reason, cans, beans, and worms seemed to be mixed a lot.  See, for example, my July 21, 2013 posting – “I’ve opened up a can of beans”, or or my December 18, 2012 posting – “That’s a real ball of worms.”  https://malaphors.com/2012/12/18/thats-a-real-ball-of-worms/ and https://malaphors.com/2013/07/31/ive-opened-up-a-can-of-beans/.   I suppose worms are can be viewed as negligible as beans.  Speaking of beans, the Yiddish word for“beans” is “bupkes,” which has been adopted into American English to mean “absolutely nothing.” You’ll hear it at cardgames when a disgusted player tosses in his hand and says  “I got bupkes.”    A big thanks to Anthony for hearing this one from a co-worker and sending it in!


Let’s not open up that can of bees

This gem was heard at a meeting.  It might be a mix of “opening up a can of worms” (getting into a set of difficult problems) and “stirring up a bees’ (or hornet’s) nest (create a lot of problems).  I think opening up a can of beer might also be in this one, as opening up a can usually leads to a beer, and bee is just one letter shy.  It’s also the title of a 1970s record by The Soft Boys.   The Soft Boys were fronted by the great Robyn Hitchcock, as those who have any memory left from the 70s will recall.  A big thanks to Michael Ameel for hearing this one and sending it in!

A Can of Bees

That’ll be a kettle of worms

Kettle of Fish

Kettle of Fish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This gem is a mixture of “a fine kettle of fish” and “a can of worms”, both meaning to describe a difficult situation or problem.  My guess is that the speaker was also confusing worms with fish, as worms are bait for fish.  Similar malaphors at this site are “I’ve opened up a can of beans” (7/31/13 compliments of Denita) and “that’s a real ball of worms” (12/18/12, submitted by Paula Fow).  Thanks to Barry Eigen who sent this one in, and added that if the speaker had only said “a fine kettle of worms”, the malaphor would have been perfect.   Perfection is elusive.

I’ve opened up a can of beans

This is a mash up of “”can of worms” and “spill the beans”.  Of course, by itself it could be meant literally as opening a can of beans, but in the context the speaker meant to say “I’ve opened up a can of worms”.   This malaphor is similar to  a previous malaphor post – “That’s a real ball of worms” (12/18/12), mixing “can of worms”  with “ball of wax”.  Thanks to Denita for sending this one in!

That’s a real ball of worms


worms (Photo credit: Wahj)

This is a mash-up of “can of worms” (a situation which causes difficulty when starting to deal with it) and “the whole ball of wax” (everything).  The mix up may have been caused by the words worms and wax, both starting with w, and that both idioms have the preposition “of” in them.  In addition, the context was an administrative hearing where the speaker was describing his home life, indicating that everything was a mess, hence the conflation of the two phrases.