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.
The speaker was nervously anticipating something. This is a three-fer mashup I think. “Champing at the bit” and “biting my nails” both meaning to anxiously await something, are clearly in the mix, and also “bites the dust” (to die) is in there. Perhaps the anticipation was so exciting that she thought she was going to die? In any event, a big thanks to Katie Mroczek for uttering this one and sending it on, with the help of Anthony Kovacs.
This one was uttered by Joe Starkey, a local sports radio commentator. It is a mashup of “smokes like a chimney” (smokes continually) and “needle in a haystack” (something that is very difficult to locate). My guess is that the speaker was thinking of “smokestack” and “haystack” bubbled to the surface. Also, haystacks give off a lot of smoke when burned. This one reminds me of the title of my malaphor book, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon for a mere $7.99! A big thanks to John Kooser for hearing this one.
This one was uttered by an evangelical Trump supporter. It is a congruent conflation of “a nest of vipers” and “a den of thieves”, both meaning a group of individuals suspected of underhanded dealings. “Den of iniquity” (a lot of immoral things happen there) might be in the mix, but I doubt it. “Waliking into the lions’ den” (place yourself in a dangerous situation) certainly is in play given the context and its Biblical roots. Here is the article where the malaphor is found: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/08/14/evangelicals-view-trump-their-protector-will-they-stand-by-him/?wpisrc=nl_rainbow&wpmm=1
A big thanks to Barry Eigen for spotting this one!
The speaker was not feeling well and uttered this nice mixup. It is a conflation of “hang out” (to engage in some some frivolous time wasting) and “lay low” (to be hidden or inconspicuous). “Feeling low” (feeling ill or sad) is probably also in the mix, considering the context. A big thanks to David Barnes for hearing this one and passing it on.
A National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent was talking about a failed strategy. This is a triple mashup of “barking up the wrong tree” (to attempt a futile course of action), “running on empty” (out of resources or in this case ideas), and “beating a dead horse” (continue to pursue something that cannot be done). All three idioms involve futile or wasted attempts. “Dead in the water” (completely defunct) might also be in the mix given the context. That would make this a quad malaphor, something rarely seen or heard. A big thanks to David Barnes for spotting this beauty.
The Malaphorer in Chief, Donald Trump, uttered this beauty when he was discussing his idea to purchase Greenland. “It’s not number one on the burner, I can tell you that.” This is a congruent conflation of “not number one on the list” and “not on the front burner”, both meaning not a high priority. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/kudlow-says-white-house-is-looking-at-trying-to-buy-greenland/2019/08/18/ab367b6c-c1bb-11e9-b5e4-54aa56d5b7ce_story.html.
This one was heard by several loyal malaphor followers, including Barry Eigen, Donna Calvert, and Frank King. This Trump malaphor is not the first. Check my book out, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors” (available on Amazon) for more mashups from him. There are also many more on this blog. Search “Trump”.