Lay down the gauntlet

This was spoken on June 6 by New York Times’ reporter Maggie Haberman, appearing on CNN’s Inside Politics.  It is a subtle mashup of “throw down the gauntlet” (to issue a challenge) and “lay down the law” (to give a directive or order sternly).  I suppose one could lay down the gauntlet but throwing it seems much more appropriate. This expression alludes to the medieval practice of a knight throwing down his gauntlet, or metal glove, as a challenge to combat. Its figurative use dates from the second half of the 1700s.  A big thanks once again to Frank King for hearing this one and throwing it my way. @MaggieNYT


A chill ran through my blood

In the Netflix series, “Evil Genius”, courtroom artist Kevin John uttered this malaphor when the defendant in the infamous Pizza Bomber case walked into the courtroom.  It is a congruent conflation of “a chill (or shiver) ran down my spine” and “my blood ran cold”, both describing a sensation of fear or dread.  “Ran” is in both expressions, probably contributing to the mental hiccup.  Also “cold” and “chill” are similar meaning and sounding words.  A tip of the toque to Mike Kovacs, aka “The Malaphor Hunter”.

There’s a smoke trail

This malaphor was uttered by Mark Teixeira, discussing Robinson Cano’s suspension for violating MLB drug rules:

“Robbie Cano’s assistant was on the list for Biogenesis,” Teixeira said. “Of course he had his assistant buy stuff for him. Alex Rodriguez got popped by Biogenesis and Melky got popped. They’re his best friends. When someone gets lumped into that group, it’s because there’s evidence, there’s a paper trail, there’s a smoke trail. …

This is a mash up of “paper trail” (written evidence of someone’s activities) and “smoking gun” (indisputably incriminating evidence).  The speaker might also have been thinking about contrails, which are essentially smoke trails from airplanes.  A big thanks to John Costello for spotting this one!

It definitely has my radar up

This was heard on Morning Joe on May 17, uttered by Mika Brzezinski discussing the missing SARS reports and Ronan Farrow’s story.  It is a nice mashup of “on my radar (screen)” (considered important) and “has my antenna up” (curiosity or interest).  “Have my back (or dander) up” (get someone angry) might also be in the mix, but I doubt it considering the context (although the whole Cohen affair might be ticking her off).  A big thanks to that Malaphor Extraordinaire, Frank King, for hearing this one.  He certainly has the ears of a hawk.


He broke the scoop

Rachel Maddow uttered this malaphor the other night, talking about Ronan Farrow’s latest scoop.  It is a mashup of “get the scoop” (get the news) and “break the story” (the first to address an issue, usually news).  Since “the scoop” is usually the news, this fractured saying makes some sense.  It also has a little assonance to it, so to speak.  Another thank you to Frank King for sharing this one.

We haven’t emptied all our cards

This was uttered by Michael Avenatti on the Lawrence O’Donnell MSNBC show when he was asked whether there will be any further disclosures regarding Michael Cohen.  It is a mashup of “show (one’s) cards” (to make one’s plans or intentions known) and “empty (something) out” (to remove or pour all of the contents from something).  Revealing and then emptying seems to be what he has done to date, so the malaphor makes sense.  This is not the first malaphor uttered by Michael Avenatti.  Check out some of his other great mashups, like “he folded like a cheap deck of cards”.  A big thanks to Beatrice Zablocki for hearing this one.  She’s a major contributor to this site. She’s the top of the notch!

I smell red flags

This is a congruent conflation of “smell trouble” and “red flag(s)”, both meaning potential or imminent danger.  “I smell a rat” (suspect someone is guilty of deception or betrayal) might also be in the mix.  Of course, those red flags around gas leaks seem to conjure up this malaphor.  A big thanks to Tim Geier who overheard this one!