This excellent word blend malaphor was spotted in a New York Times interview of Bernie Sanders. Here’s the context:
“But in this legislation, let us be clear we have gotten for a family of four — a working-class family struggling to put food on the table for their kids — a check of $5,600. Now people who have money may not think that’s a lot of money. But when you are struggling day and night to pay the bills, to worry about eviction, that is going to be a lifesend for millions and millions of people.”
This is a congruent conflation of “godsend” and “lifesaver”, both referring to a very helpful or valuable event, person, or thing. As I have noted in past posts, malaphors are usually unintentional idiom blends, but they can also be an unintentional blend of two or more words. I have many examples in my first book, “He Smokes Like a Fish and Other Malaphors”, available on Amazon.
Someone asked me if my word blend malaphors are actually portmanteaus. I don’t think so. The main difference is that a portmanteau is an intentional word blend while a malaphor is unintentional. There are other differences:
A portmanteau is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes, and their definitions, into one new word. A portmanteau word generally combines both sounds and meanings, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog. More generally, it may refer to any term or phrase that combines two or more meanings, for instance, the term “wurly” when describing hair that is both wavy and curly.
The word “portmanteau” was first used in this context by Lewis Carroll in the book Through the Looking-Glass (1871), in which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky, where “slithy” means “lithe and slimy” and “mimsy” is “flimsy and miserable”. Humpty Dumpty explains the practice of combining words in various ways by telling Alice,
‘You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.’
My single word blend malaphors are unconscious blends of words to make an unintentional new word. The word sounds or looks correct at first blush, but then on closer examination is incorrect. Examples include “Buckminster Palace” (Buckingham and Westminster, and/or possibly Buckminster Fuller) “split-minute decision” (split second and last minute), and the one submitted today, lifesend.
A big thank you to Ann Hodges Lynn for spotting this one and sending it in!
Salt Lake City mayor Erin Mendenhall was describing the reopening of the public libraries and uttered this nice malaphor. It is a conflation of “the first step” (first in a series of actions), “the first step is always the hardest” (starting is the most difficult part of any task) and “dip a toe in the water” (to tentatively begin a new experience). Steps and toes go together and so does this nice mashup. A big thanks to Kathy Shand for hearing this one and sending it in!
Retired Los Angeles Police Homicide Detective Greg Kading uttered this one on Season 1, Episode 1 of the Netflix series Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. It’s a nice congruent conflation of “peaches and cream” and “a bed of roses”, both describing an easy, comfortable situation. This one is reminiscent of an earlier post, “four more years of fun and roses”. https://malaphors.com/2020/10/23/four-more-years-of-fun-and-roses/
A big thank you to Vicki and Mike Kovacs for sending this one in.
The speaker was playing an online board game and made a comment about how it was too late for anyone else to win the game. She then uttered this nice malaphor. It is a mashup of “that ship has sailed” (some possiblity ot option is no longer available or likely) and “fly the coop” (to leave or escape (something)). This one is similar to the Austin Powers’ malaphor I posted a few years ago: “That train has sailed.” https://malaphors.com/2015/11/13/that-train-has-sailed/ Transportation mixups.
A tip of the hat to Andy Jacobs for hearing this one and passing it on! Thank you Andy!
A conversation ensued about some people resisting a new initiative at Penn State. The speaker then blurted this one out. It is a mashup of “roll with the punches” (cope with adversity, especially by being flexible) and “get with the times” (to understand or be knowledgable of modern times). “Let the good times roll” may also have been in the speaker’s mind, as I know he is a fan of The Cars. Also perhaps he was thinking of “a roll of dimes”, something he may have done in childhood. Or maybe “Roll Tide!”? A big thanks to Martin Pietrucha who self-reported this malaphor.
ABC’s 20/20 aired an episode about a woman’s fraudulent fiance. He told her they were to be married by the Pope and their guests at the wedding mass could include their gay friends and that the gay friends could receive communion. The friend then uttered this great malaphor. Here is the video snippet:
This is a congruent conflation of “earth-shattering/shaking” and “life-changing” , both meaning something having a powerful effect. Maybe also thoughts about climate change going on in the speaker’s head? A tip of the hat to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and sending it in.
House impeachment manager Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) was on CNN’s State of the Union, and was discussing the impeachment trial and the verdict. Talking about Mitch McConnell’s closing argument that supported the House Managers’ arguments, she said:
“They all agreed,” she added. “They just decided that they wanted to give him a walk and they found a technicality that they created to do so.” https://www.thedailybeast.com/delegate-stacey-plaskett-says-impeachment-trial-needed-more-senators-with-spines
This is a nice conflation of “to give (one) a pass” (accept someone’s improper actions or behavior without punishment) and “walk away from (someone or something)”, (to come through on the other side of an event without suffering any harm). “Let him walk” (acquitted on a criminal charge) was probably also in the mix. Of course, “walk the plank” (to suffer punishment at the hands of someone) might have been on her mind, considering the context. A big thanks to Bruce Ryan for hearing this one and sending it in!
Grace Panetta from Business Insider discussed 11 political friendships that crossed party lines. In the section on Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy, Hatch says: “I have to say that we became very dear friends. That doesn’t mean we didn’t fight each other. We fought each other like tooth and tongue but afterwards, we’d put our arms around each other and laugh about it,” Hatch told NPR in 2009 after Kennedy’s death.
Given the context, this appears to be a mashup of “tooth and nail, fight/with” (furiously or fiercely) and “hammer and tongs” (energetically or enthusiastically). Tongue sounds like tong (almost a homophone) and so the speaker was probably thinking “tongs”, but that still is a malaphor. The two expressions indicate doing something with great passion, hence the mixup. A tooth is near the tongue, so the substitution of tongue for nail. A big thanks to Lou Pugliese for spotting this one.
This one was heard on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, uttered by Joe himself. He was talking about the 10 GOP Senators who were in the Oval Office proposing a counteroffer to Biden’s 1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and was suggesting that President Biden “call them at their bluff”. This is a conflation of “call (one’s) bluff” (challenge someone to act on their threat or prove that their claim is true, when one believes they are making a false claim) and “take (one) at (one’s) word” (accept what one says without further verifying). A big thank you to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and promptly sending it in!
Heard this one today on The Price is Right. A contestant said this after spinning the big wheel with the arrow barely landing on the right amount. This is a congruent conflation of “just in the nick of time” and “by a hair”, both describing an extremely slim or short margin. A big thanks to Elaine Hatfield for hearing this one and yelling it to me upstairs.