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Put your best face forward

The speaker was talking about the importance of translating marketing messages accurately into various languages, urging the viewers to “put your best face forward.”  This is a nice mashup of “put your best foot forward” (act or appear at your best, or to try and make a good impression) and “put a good face on” (To act as though a particular situation is not as undesirable or grim as it really is).  “Put a smile on someone’s face” (makes someone happy) might also be in play.  I believe this mix up is caused primarily by the word “put”, appearing in both idioms.  Also, the positive words “good” and “best” might also have contributed to the mental confusion.  Of course “foot” and “face” are both four letter words beginning with “f ” which might have taken the speaker down the malaphor path.  A big thanks to Marcia Johnston (author of “Word Up!” and “You Can Say That Again”) for hearing this one and passing it along!  Catch Marcia at http://www.writing.rocks if you enjoy writing!

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You are biting off your nose to spite your face

During an excellent discussion on Facebook, one of my friends and loyal malaphor follower and contributor wrote this one and another of my Facebook friends (also a loyal malaphor follower and contributor!) immediately recognized it as a bona fide malaphor.  This is a mash up of “cutting off your nose to spite your face” (use self-destructive means to try to solve or fix a problem) and “biting off more than you can chew” (taking on more than you can deal with).  Certainly the words bite, chew, and cut are all similar and probably added to the mix up.  Also both idioms are of equal length and contain the word “off”.   Perhaps the speaker was also thinking of an episode from “The Walking Dead”.  Lots of noses bitten off.

The origin of “cutting off your nose to spite your face” is interesting.  Wikipedia states that “the phrase is known to have been used in the 12th century. It may be associated with the numerous legends of pious women disfiguring themselves in order to protect their virginity. These cases include Saint Eusebia, Saint Ebba, Saint Oda of Hainault and Saint Margaret of Hungary.  The most famous of these cases was that of Saint Ebba (sometimes called Æbbe the Younger), the Mother Superior of the monastery of Coldingham. In 867 AD,Viking pirates from Zealand and Uppsala landed in Scotland. When news of the raid reached Saint Ebba, she gathered her nuns together and urged them to disfigure themselves, so that they might be unappealing to the Vikings. In this way, they hoped to protect their chastity. She demonstrated this by cutting off her nose and upper lip, and the nuns proceeded to do the same. The Viking raiders were so disgusted that they burned the entire building to the ground with the nuns inside.”

A big thanks to Beverly Rollins Sheingold VanDerhei for writing this one and Donna Cosentino for spotting it!

Don’t bite or cut your nose off!  Instead, buy the malaphor book “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors” available now on Amazon!  Just click here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205.   For $6.99, you get lots of laughs and a terrific bathroom book.

bite your nose


You’re yanking my leg

That Mistress of Malaphors, Naomi David, has struck again.  Her mom asked her what a “shout out” was, and MM replied, “you’re yanking my leg” as she could not believe her mom wasn’t aware of the expression.  This gem is a mash up of  “yanking my chain” (giving someone a hard time) and “pulling my leg” (play a joke on or tease).  Both expressions have similar meanings and have similar action verbs – yanking and pulling.  Perhaps leg chains were also involved in this mental hair ball.  The last time I heard this expression was in a chiropractor’s office.  A big shout out to Naomi David for uttering this one and to Katie Hatfield for sending it in!


It went against the grain of salt

An attorney was referring to a client who had fibbed about a number of things.  The attorney felt that one of his client’s statements was true, and that “it went against the grain of salt”.  This is a wonderful mix of “go against the grain” (not what is usually said) and “grain of salt” (skeptically or with reservations).  A kernel of truth also comes to mind.  The unintentional merging of the two idioms is ingenious as it describes a person who is rarely truthful.  Kudos to Sam Edelmann for sending this one in.