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Don’t beat a horse while it’s down

In the seemingly never ending mashups of idioms involving the word “horse”, I give you this latest one, uttered by my grandnephew Nathan Hatfield.   His Dad was asking him about a project he was working on.  It is a mashup of “Kick (one) when (one) is down” (to criticize someone wh has already suffered a setback) and “beat a dead horse” (to continue to focus or talk about something).  Idioms that include the word “horse” are for some reason continually mixed up.  See my website and type in “horse”.  You will be amazed.  A big thanks to John Hatfield III for hearing this one and passing it on!

beating a dead horse

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Let’s put this horse to bed

The speaker and his co-worker were talking about a situation that they didn’t need to talk about anymore. In order to signal it was time to wrap things up the speaker said “Let’s put this horse to bed.”  This is a nice congruent conflation of “put (something) to bed” and “put a horse out to pasture”, meaning to finish or retire something.  Perhaps the speaker dredged up in his mind the Godfather scene with the horse head in bed.  That certainly finalized things.  A big thanks to Joel for actually unintentionally uttering this one and sending it in.


They were running up a dead tree

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.


We have a few dark sheep in the family

The Sopranos title screen.

The Sopranos title screen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a mash up of “black sheep” (disreputable member of a group) and “dark horse” (something or someone who is little known and rises to prominence).  It was uttered in The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti the eighth episode of the first season of The Sopranos.:

Dr. Reis: You know, on my mother’s side, we have a few dark sheep.
Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, you know, Murder Incorporated. My mother’s
uncle was Lepke’s wheel man, his driver.


Not to beat a broken record, but….

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.


I don’t want to reinvent the horse

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.