He’s barking up the wrong horse

This one was almost uttered and then held back, apparently realizing it was wrong.  It is a nice mashup of “barking up the wrong tree” (to attempt a futile course of action) and “backing the wrong horse” (to support a person in an effort that fails).  Both phrases involve failure, and “barking” and “backing” sound and look similar, hence the mix up.  Also, the word “wrong” is in each idiom, contributing to the mental hiccup.  As I have posted previously, idioms involving horses for some reason are frequently mixed up, causing malaphors.  Go to the Malaphors web page and search “horse”.  You will find a treasure trove of malaphors.  As Kramer would say, “Giddyup!”  A big thanks to John Kooser for almost belching out this one.


She was threading that line in the Trump Administration

Kathleen Parker from the Washington Post uttered this one on MSNBC (the malaphor channel), talking about Nikki Haley.  It is a conflation of “toeing the line” (adhering to the rules of something) and “threading the needle” (pass something through a narrow space between two things).  Both idioms make sense in context, and perhaps Ms. Parker’s malaphor is really an economical way of expressing two ideas at once.  A big thanks to Jim Kozlowski for hearing this one and passing it on.

I want to thank you for giving me the down low

Alex Witt on MSNBC’s Live with Alex Witt uttered this on Saturday, October 13.  It is a nice mashup of “get the lowdown” (receiving specific facts or information on a situation) and “get the down and dirty” (receive uninhibited and direct news).  At first I thought he might have just inverted the phrase “the lowdown” but in context he was thinking of “down and dirty” as well.  A big thanks to Frank King who always gives the down low.

We can break history

This is one of my favorites.  Donald Trump Jr. uttered this one when discussing the upcoming midterm elections.  He told ABC news, “So our people, the MAGA people, they have to turn out. They have to get out and vote. And I think we can break history.”

This is a mash up of “make history” (to do something historically significant) and I think “break a record” (to do something at a higher or greater degree than the greatest extent currently known).  Both expressions refer to achieving something never before achieved so it is close to a congruent conflation.  “Break with tradition” (to do something in a new way) might also be in the mix.  I am tempted to say “break wind” (to expel gas, fart) was also on the speaker’s mind but that is just a guess.  A big thanks to Jack Chandler for spotting this gem.

Floods of laughter

This one was uttered by a work colleague talking about an Andy Kaufman bit that had an audience in “floods of laughter”.  It is a mash up of “flood of tears” (crying a lot) and “gales of laughter” (laughing a lot).  Not sure if the speaker is from the UK but if so “shakes with laughter” (uncontrollable laughter) might also be in the mix.  Certainly gales (strong winds) can be associated with flooding caused by a hurricane.  I would much prefer a flood of laughter, however.  A big thanks to Matt Whittaker for hearing this one and sending it in.

He’s laid down a line

Harry Litman was discussing Trump on MSNBC and uttered this nice malaphor.  It is a mash up of “lay down the law” (give an order or directive) and “draw a line” (to set a boundary). “Lay”, “line”, and “law” all seem to be part of the scramble here.  Mr. Litman has been the subject of a previous malaphor (“take no quarter” and was very good natured about it.  A true Pittsburgher, full of grace!  A big thanks to Frank King for hearing this one and sending it in.

You need to put your ducks in one basket

This one was overheard at a business meeting.  It is a nice conflation of “get your ducks in a row” (get well-organized) and “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” (don’t risk everything on one venture).  Idioms containing the words eggs, ducks, or baskets seem to get commonly jumbled.  Type any one of these words in the search and you will find many postings on the subjects.  A big thanks to John Hatfield III for hearing this one and sending it in.