He’s not the brightest fish in the shed

In the continuing series on malaphors describing those who are not very intelligent, I give you this “three way malaphor”.  It is a tri-mashup of “not the sharpest tool in the shed” and “not the brightest bulb in the chandelier”, both describing someone who is not very smart, combined with “not the only fish in the sea” (plenty of other suitable persons).  I have posted multiple variations of this subject in the past, including “not the brightest knife in the drawer”, “not the brightest bulb in the shed”, and “not the sharpest bulb in the shed”.  It just shows that we may want to look in the mirror every once in awhile.  A big thanks to Kimberly Gorgichuk for hearing this one and passing it on.


To add salt to injury

This mixup was found in the following newspaper:

It is a congruent conflation of  “to rub salt in the wound’ and “to add insult to injury”, both meaning to deliberately make someone’s misfortune or unhappiness worse.  “Wound” and “injury” are similar meaning words, probably creating the mental mashup.  Now if the writer had written “add-in salt to injury” that would be an eggcorn.  An eggcorn is a similar sounding phrase spelled differently.   Because of the similar sounding words, this is a very common malaphor, with over 2,300,000 hits, according to Google.  A big thanks to Eve for spotting this one.


They make you jump through too much red tape

The speaker was referring to insurance companies.  This is a nice mix of “jump through hoops” (to complete or face many challenges to achieve something) and “red tape” (bureaucratic rules that are overly strict or tedious).  Both expressions refer to a series of challenges or events, contributing to the confusion.  “Cutting through red tape” is what the speaker really wants.  A big thanks to John Kooser for uttering this one and sending it in.


It’s like putting the wolf in charge of the hen house

This was uttered by Chuck Schumer when discussing Trump’s nominee, Tom Marino, as Drug Czar.  Schumer said Marino’s confirmation would be “like putting the wolf in charge of the hen house”.

This is a mashup of “the fox guarding the hen house” (assigning the duty of guarding valuable information or resources to someone who is likely to exploit that opportunity) and “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” (a person or thing that appears harmless but is actually dangerous).  Now certainly you wouldn’t want a wolf in charge of the hen house either, but the correct idiom only indicts the fox.  A big thanks to Steve Grieme for catching this one and sending it on.


I haven’t heard hide nor hair of that guy

Hearing and seeing are two different things.  But in the malaphor world, they are the same.  This alliterative mixup was heard on the Rachel Maddow Show.  She was discussing the Michael Flynn affair, and about an FSB agent who was charged with treason but very little news since the charge.  The transcript of the show can be found here:

This is a mashup of “not seen hide nor hair of someone” (haven’t seen someone or something in a long time) and “have not heard a peep” (haven’t heard anything).  Personally, the only time I hear hair is when it is squeaky clean.  A shout out to comedian Frank King for hearing this one and passing it on.


He jumps off the handle too soon

Today’s malaphor is from the first episode of “Tour Group” on Bravo. One of the reality stars describes another cast member as someone who “jumps off the the handle too soon.”  Certainly “flies off the handle” (to lose one’s temper) was intended, but what is the mix?  Perhaps the speaker was thinking of  “jumps off the deep end” (to get deeply involved with someone or something) because of the words jump and off.  However, I think the better mix is with “jump to conclusions” (to decide something without all the facts) as both idioms concern doing something quickly without thinking.  “Jump down someone’s throat” (to strongly criticize someone) is also a possibility, as one who flies off the handle is also likely to jump down someone’s throat!  The culprit here is the action verbs fly and jump, both involving going through the air.  A big thanks to Diane Bufter for hearing this one and sending it in!

If you enjoyed this one and the analysis of mental hiccups, check out my book “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors” on Amazon at  You won’t be disappointed!

tour group



He bent over hoops for me

Now that’s impressive!  This ditty was overheard at a benefits hearing where the claimant was referring to someone who was assisting her.  It is a congruent conflation of “jump through hoops” and “bend over backwards”, both meaning to do everything possible to please someone or accomplish something.  Bending over hoops is probably the ultimate in pleasing someone.  The mix up is caused, I think, by the action words bend and jump, and by the similar meanings of the phrases.  A shout out to Sam Edelmann who heard this one and passed it along.