She needs to pull a trick out of her hat

This was uttered by the play by play commentator for the women’s cross country skiing race at this year’s Winter Olympics. It is a nice mash up of “trick up her sleeve” (secret advantage) and “pull a rabbit out of her hat” (to do something surprising or seemingly impossible).  Both idioms concern the element of surprise, and both involve tricks or magic.  A big thanks to Jake Holdcroft for hearing this one and passing it on!


By the nick of their teeth

This is a nice congruent conflation of “in the nick of time” and “by the skin of their teeth” (just barely).  “Skin” and “nick” are both four letter words with a “k” and an “n”.  Kudos to Curioussteph for uttering this one unintentionally and sending it in.


He’s not the brightest knife in the drawer

This was spoken by a radio host describing a politician.  It is a congruent conflation of “not the sharpest knife in the drawer” and “not the brightest bulb in the chandelier”, both describing someone who is not very intelligent.  Other similar idioms include “he’s one fry short of a Happy Meal”, “the elevator doesn’t go to the top floor”, and my personal favorite, “somewhere there’s a village missing its idiot”.

This malaphor is similar to several other postings on the same theme including “not the brightest tool in the shed”., and “not the sharpest bulb in the shed”,   Thanks to Verbatim for sending this one in!

Keep your eyes in your pants

This advice was offered by one gym rat warning another about spending too much time looking at the women in the gym.  It’s a conflation of “keep your hands (or eyes) to yourself”  and “keep your p**ker (d**k) in your pants”, both meaning to refrain from touching or gawking at another.   This malaphor seems timely in light of the #metoo movement.  Perhaps a new slogan?  A big thanks to Verbatim for sharing this one.

They are talking through a complete hole in their head

This one comes from a Wall Street Journal article about Scotch Whisky:  “Whoever is saying that is talking through a complete hole in their head.”  This is a mashup of “needing something like a hole in the head” (to have absolutely no need for something) and probably “talking through (one’s) hat” (saying foolish things, or bluffing, boasting).  “Off the top of (one’s) head” (from memory; without much careful consideration) might be in the mix, but since the word “through” is used I would bet on the former.  Another thanks to frequent malaphor contributor Barry Eigen for spotting this one!

They are trying to rattle his tree

This terrific malaphor was uttered both by former Senator Robert Torricelli and by Stephanie Ruhle on MSNBC last week (1/24 at 9:11 am to be exact).  They were both talking about the many interviews in Trump’s inner circle by the Mueller team and that those interviews are trying to rattle Trump’s tree.  This is a congruent conflation of “shake (someone’s) tree” and”rattle (someone’s) cage”, both meaning to purposefully unnerve or upset someone.  The speakers might have been thinking of the song “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” when they burped up this one.  Or perhaps they were thinking of those giant mechanical devices that rattle almonds out of almond trees.  Who knows what lurks in the mental crevices of one’s brain?  A big thanks to the Comedian Frank King for hearing this one!

We don’t want you breathing down our back

This mashup was found in an article in the January 21, New York Times magazine section, titled “They want to destroy us”.  It is a conflation of “breathing down (one’s) neck” (monitor closely, usually in an overbearing way) and “get off my back” (stop harassing me).  Invading one’s space is the common denominator in the two idioms and probably was the cause of the confusion.  A big thanks to Barry Eigen who spotted this one, and commented that “it’s certainly hard to picture this happening unless the recipient of the breathing has no shirt on.”  Agree.