He needs to get his act in gear

This simple but great malaphor was uttered on the Kojo Nnamdi NPR radio program during a panel discussion.  The speaker could not be identified.  It is a mashup of “get his act together” (improve) and “get his ass in gear” (hurry up).  “Act” and “ass” sound alike so this almost is like an eggcorn.  What is an eggcorn, you might ask?  An eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker’s dialect (sometimes called oronyms). The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original but plausible in the same context, such as “old-timers’ disease” for “Alzheimer’s disease” (Wikipedia).

I have heard this malaphor often, and am surprised I have never posted this one.  A big thanks to David Barnes for hearing this one and sending it in.


They need to get their act in order

Yours truly blurted this one out to my wife who immediately said “malaphor” and wrote it down.  It’s a congruent conflation of “get your act together” and “put your house in order”, both meaning to get organized.  “Together” and “in order” have the same number of letters and sound similar, probably contributing to the mash up.   This is a timely malaphor considering the upcoming general election.


You need to get your ass together

This is a mash up of “get your act/shit together” (get organized) and “get off your ass” (stop loafing and get to work).  Both idioms direct someone to get moving, invoking a congruent conflation.  Also ass and act are three letter words that have a similar sound.  Finally, the lower half of the body is at work here in both phrases.  Many thanks to Robyn Pietrucha for blurting this one out and passing it along!