I’m going to go with my first gut

A college student was tired of over thinking multiple choice test questions and said this malaphor.  It is a nice mashup of “first impression” (opinion formed on first meeting someone) and “gut feeling” (an instinct or intuition about something).  Both expressions involve immediate reactions to something, and are visceral in nature.  Of course, a tight belt forms a first and second gut as well.  A big thanks to John Kooser who heard this one and passed it on.

The Captain of the aircraft carrier didn’t raise alarm bells

Courtney Kube uttered this one on MSNBC the other night.  It is a congruent conflation of “raise the alarm” and “ring the bell”, both meaning to warn someone.  A big thanks to that hawk-eared malaphor catcher Frank King for hearing this one!
If you liked this one, check out the book on malaphors, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon.  An easy read while isolating.

But what if the whole thing goes belly under?

The speaker, who is a flight attendant, was talking to her son about possibly taking a voluntary leave of absence in light of covid-19, but fearful about the financial status of her airline company that she works for.  This is a nice congruent conflation of “going under” and “going belly up”, both referring to a business that goes bankrupt or cleases to exist.  This is a directional (“under” vs. “up”) mixup, common in the malaphor world.  A big thanks to Jody Compton for uttering this one, recognizing it as a bona fide malaphor, and sending it in.

Trump is digging in his feet

This was heard on MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber in a discussion of the coronavirus and the White House response.  This is a mashup of “dig in (one’s) heels” (resist stubbornly) and “drag (one’s) feet” (deliberately slow or reluctant to act).  “Dig” and “drag” sound similar and feet have heels so that contributed to the mixup.  A shout out to Frank King for hearing this one.

The covid-19 thing has really thrown a wrench in us sideways

This one comes from the Washington Post.  It is a mashup of “throw a (monkey) wrench in the works” (to do something that prevents a plan from succeeding) and “knock (someone) sideways” (to upset, confuse, or shock).  Maybe “thrown (someone) for a loop” (to confuse or shock) is also in the mix.  The expression “throw a (monkey) wrench in the works” seems to be garbled a lot.  I have posted several malaphors involving the expression, including “throw another kink in the fire”, “a wrench had been thrown in the bucket”, and “he really threw a monkey wrench into that fire”. https://malaphors.com/2017/11/01/throw-another-kink-in-the-wrench/, https://malaphors.com/2016/10/04/a-wrench-had-been-thrown-into-the-bucket/, https://malaphors.com/2013/02/08/he-really-threw-a-monkey-wrench-into-that-fire/

Here’s the cite:


A tip of the hat to Barry Eigen who spotted this timely malaphor.

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.

We’re behind the ball

This one was uttered by James Hamblin on the CNN show Reliable Sources.  It’s a mashup of “behind the curve” (something or someone not quite able to keep up), and “behind the eight ball” (in a difficult situation or at a disadvantage).  Either way I think Mr. Hamblin is right!  “Behind” is found in both idioms, creating the mental hiccup.  “On the ball” (alert or aware) might also be in the mix, but I doubt that the speaker was thinking that way, given the context.  A big thanks to John Polk from @ClichesGoneWild for posting this one! @jameshamblin @ReliableSources