That tops the cake

The contributor’s mom said this one.  It is a congruent conflation of “takes the cake”  and “tops them all”, both meaning to win or be the most outstanding in some respect.  My guess is that the speaker was also thinking of a cake topper.  A big thanks to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one from his Mom and sending it in.

Is Papi pulling your goat?

Yesterday over breakfast the contributor of this malaphor made some inane comment to his wife. Their 5 yr old granddaughter, who was visiting, then blurted out, “Is Papi pulling your goat?”  This is a mashup of “pulling (one’s) leg” (kidding or teasing someone) and “get (one’s) goat” (to irritate or annoy someone).  Certainly one can pull a goat, and vice versa (see pic).  And the words “pull” and “get” are similar in meaning.  Perhaps the little one had some pulled pork the night before.  Adn if you haven’t had it before, “pulled goat” is pretty good as well.

Interestingly, the origin of the phrase “get your goat” derives from a tradition in horse racing. Thought to have a calming effect on high-strung thoroughbreds, a goat was placed in the horse’s stall on the night before the race.   A big thanks to Dan Chavez who heard this one and sent it in.

They help put all the ducks in place

My wife and I heard this one on the PBS Newshour.  A person was talking about how her parents are helping her during the pandemic.  This is a congruent conflation of “put your ducks in a row” and “fall in place”, both meaning to be organized or things fitting well.    I supposed one needs to put the ducks in their place when arranging them in a row.

I went around his back

At first blush, this sounds right but on closer inspection I think it’s a bona fide malaphor.  In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Jennifer Aniston said this one when she was talking about auditioning for a role on the soap opera in which her Dad was a regular cast member.   It’s a congruent conflation of “go behind (someone’s) back” and “go around”, both meaning to do something secretly or without your permission.  This subtle mashup required someone with the ears of a hawk and that would be none other than Mike Kovacs, a regular contributor to this website.  Thanks Mike!


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.

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.

Those are bitter grapes to swallow

Martin Pietrucha, loyal malaphor follower, unintentionally uttered this one the other night while talking with his kids.  It is a mashup of “sour grapes” (someone is angry or bitter because he has not gotten something that he wants) and “a bitter pill to swallow” (an unwanted situation that someone is forced to accept).  “Sour” and “bitter” seem to be the culprits here, both are two of the five basic tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami).  Also one swallows grapes as well as pills.  A big thanks to Martin for sending this one in.