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They are not out of the clear

James Joseph, senior FEMA administrator, on CNN, told people in Florida not to ignore warnings and think themselves safe from the effects of the oncoming hurricane Dorian.  It’s a congruent conflation of “out of the woods” and “in the clear”, both meaning to be free of danger.  Perhaps the speaker was thinking of a clearing in the woods.  “Out of danger”, also meaning to be free of danger, might also be in the mix.  A big thanks to “my ol’ pal”  Beatrice Zablocki for hearing this one.

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Negotiating with Trump is like trying to talk to Jello

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) uttered this gem on CNN January 4, 2019.  The context is regarding the recent Government shutdown over Trump’s proposed wall.  This is a conflation of “like talking to a wall” (a futile conversation because the other party is not listening) and “like nailing Jello to a wall” (a futile attempt at something).  Both idioms contain the word “wall” (appropriate in context, right?) and both concern something that is futile (a conversation or an attempt).   A hat tip to Tom Justice for hearing this one!


The guardrails are coming off

This one is from a CNN news story:  “The White House official who was in contact with CNN’s Brown said that with the impending departures of both Chief of Staff John Kelly and Mattis, there is a feeling that the guardrails are coming off. The official says “of course it’s crazy. Anyone looking at this has got to think there’s some craziness going on.”https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/22/politics/shutdown-mattis-whitaker-trump/index.htm
This is a congruent conflation of “off the rails” and “the wheels are coming off”,  both meaning a state of chaos or disorder.   The words “rails” and “wheels” were confused, probably due to the association of both of them (wheels on a railroad car).  Of course, if the guardrails are removed, a state of chaos would probably ensue.  A big thanks to Ron MacDonald for spotting this one.
  

We’re going to leave nothing uncovered

This one comes from Donald Trump, explaining how he’s going to thoroughly investigate the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.  It is a great mash up of “leave no stone unturned” (to look for something in every possible place) and “leave nothing to chance” (to allow nothing to be settled by chance) or perhaps also “uncover the truth.” The added bonus here is that his mash up manages to mean exactly the opposite of what he intended.

Here is the link: https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/15/politics/trump-saudi-king-tweet/index.html?fbclid=IwAR0oO6TcAWywTPU6JF2RHzKe-sT4Om1yrgqoQe3HHCvX73Xayfp44icHKSI

A big thanks to David Barnes for spotting this one and sending it in.


He’s running the shots

This excellent malaphor was uttered by a CNN reporter on the program New Day on 8/9/18.  The reporter was referring to Mueller, and his ongoing negotiations with Trump’s legal team with respect to an interview with Trump.  It’s a congruent conflation of “running the show” and “calling the shots”, both referring to someone who is in control of the situation.  “Show” and “shot” are both four letter words that have similar sounds, and I suspect the reason for the mental mix up.  A big thank you to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and sending it in.  


Transparency is a two way sword

This gem was uttered by James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, on CNN’s The Axe Files with David Axelrod.  It is a mashup of “double-edged sword” (something that can be both beneficial and problematic) and “two-way street” (a situation where both sides must put forth an equal amount of effort to get a desired result).  The reason for the mixup is obvious:  “double” means “two”.  Also, the two expressions are close in meaning.  A big thanks to James Kozlowski for hearing this one and sending it in.

Did you like this mental hiccup?  Check out my book on Malaphors on Amazon.   It’s called “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors” and is only $6.99!  That’s five cents a malaphor.  Cheap laughs, right?


Lay down the gauntlet

This was spoken on June 6 by New York Times’ reporter Maggie Haberman, appearing on CNN’s Inside Politics.  It is a subtle mashup of “throw down the gauntlet” (to issue a challenge) and “lay down the law” (to give a directive or order sternly).  I suppose one could lay down the gauntlet but throwing it seems much more appropriate. This expression alludes to the medieval practice of a knight throwing down his gauntlet, or metal glove, as a challenge to combat. Its figurative use dates from the second half of the 1700s.  A big thanks once again to Frank King for hearing this one and throwing it my way. @MaggieNYT