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They put me through hoops and ladders

A baker was referring to the health department inspection and uttered this mixup.  It is a conflation of “”jump through hoops” (force someone to face challenges) and “put (someone) through the wringer” (force someone to endure harsh criticism).  Both phrases involve requiring a person to do something, in this case a health department inspection, and both share the word “through”.  The speaker was also probably conjuring up in his mind the game “Chutes and Ladders”.  Kudos to Sam Edelmann who overheard this gem.
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bottom of the pack

Joy Reid on MSNBC was discussing the Democratic debate and the attacks from those candidates with the least to lose, referring to them as “those polling at the bottom of the pack”.  This is a mashup of “back of the pack”  (last ones) and “bottom of the barrel” (least desirable).  I suppose this malaphor fits if you are referring to playing cards, or when you have been binge swiping on Tinder and have run out of people – see Urban Dictionary https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bottom%20of%20the%20pack

A shout out to Frank King, a malaphor spotting regular.  Good ear, Frank!


One day you might be on the other side of the stick

Bob Phillips, state director of the advocacy group Common Cause, uttered this one to The Guardian.  Here is the full quote to give you context:

“Unfortunately, the Democrats, some of them will say, ‘We can’t wait to win in 2020, take it back and gerrymander the hell out of them’,” said Phillips. “Now, that’s not what I want, but it’s out there, and it’s playing in the minds of the majority party. If you are the majority party and you don’t do reform, one day you might be on the other side of the stick.”: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/27/us-supreme-court-2020-election-gerrymandering.

This is a mashup of “other side of the coin” (opposite aspect of something) and “short end of the stick” (unequal outcome of a deal that results in a disadvantage).  Ends and sides must be the reason for this mental scramble.  A big thanks to Barry Eigen for spotting this one.

You won’t get the other side of the stick if you buy the book of books on malaphors, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon today!  https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205


They’re not holding any punches

Ayman Mohyeldin on MSNBC uttered this one when he was talking about Trey Gowdy and Republicans criticizing Democrats and Mueller’s testimony.  It is a congruent conflation of “not holding back” and “not pulling any punches”, both meaning to act without restraint or limitations.  The congruent conflation to me is the purest form of a malaphor.  The speaker is thinking of the correct idiom but there are other idioms that mean the same thing swirling in the brain.  A big thanks to Frank King for hearing this subtle but classic malaphor. @AymanM


He put his lead foot in his mouth

The speaker was discussing Biden’s recent bragging about working with segregationists and uttered this malaphor. It is a mashup of “to put (one’s) foot in “one’s” mouth” (unintentionally say something foolish) and “have a lead foot” (tend to speed when driving).  “Go over like a lead balloon” (utter failure) might also be in the mix, as it seems to fit in context.  This one reminds me of the famous malaphor uttered by Ann Richards at the 1988 Democratic Convention, when she referred to George H.W. Bush as someone who “was born with a silver foot in his mouth”.  Check that one out in my website at https://malaphors.com/politics/.  A big thanks to John Kooser for uttering this one and unabashedly submitting it!


Paul Ryan shamelessly ran cover for Trump

This appears in the very first line of Eric Lutz’s piece in Vanity Fair on Paul Ryan’s interview with Politico’s Tim Alberta.  It is a congruent conflation of “run interference” and “provide cover” (take an action to avoid problems, on behalf of another individual).  “Run for cover” might also have been in the writer’s mind, located in the “freudian slip” area.  A big thanks to Frank King who spotted this one!


Joe Biden needs to get out and shake the flesh

This one conjures up a scary/humorous image.  Former House Rep Joe Crowley (D-NY) (who was unseated by AOC) said this beaut on MSNBC today.  He was asked if he had any advice for the Biden campaign and this was his answer.  It is a congruent conflation of “press the flesh” and “shake hands and kiss babies”, both meaning to go out and meet as many people as possible.  Mike Kovacs, Chief Operating Officer for Malaphor Central, heard this one and sent it in immediately.  Mike noted that there are several cheap jokes embedded in this malaphor.  Crowley lost to AOC, who as many will remember shook the flesh in a great dance video.  Also, Mike queried whether Biden at his age could shake the flesh considering the loss of elasticity, but I believe that actually works to Joe’s advantage.