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Let’s put this horse to bed

The speaker and his co-worker were talking about a situation that they didn’t need to talk about anymore. In order to signal it was time to wrap things up the speaker said “Let’s put this horse to bed.”  This is a nice congruent conflation of “put (something) to bed” and “put a horse out to pasture”, meaning to finish or retire something.  Perhaps the speaker dredged up in his mind the Godfather scene with the horse head in bed.  That certainly finalized things.  A big thanks to Joel for actually unintentionally uttering this one and sending it in.

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I’m going to hang low at home today

The speaker was not feeling well and uttered this nice mixup.  It is a conflation of “hang out” (to engage in some some frivolous time wasting) and “lay low” (to be hidden or inconspicuous).  “Feeling low” (feeling ill or sad) is probably also in the mix, considering the context.   A big thanks to David Barnes for hearing this one and passing it on.


They were running up a dead tree

A National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent was talking about a failed strategy.  This is a triple mashup of “barking up the wrong tree” (to attempt a futile course of action), “running on empty” (out of resources or in this case ideas), and “beating a dead horse” (continue to pursue something that cannot be done).  All three idioms involve futile or wasted attempts.  “Dead in the water” (completely defunct) might also be in the mix given the context.  That would make this a quad malaphor, something rarely seen or heard.  A big thanks to David Barnes for spotting this beauty.


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.

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