At first blush, this looked more like a mixed metaphor than a malaphor, but on close inspection it is indeed a mashup of two idioms. This one comes from the local news in Baltimore: a Baltimore City official was giving an update on trash/garbage pickup problems, and trashmen were off work as a result of the coronavirus. Here is the quote:
“This last week has been extremely difficult for everyone involved, but there is a silver lining at the end of that tunnel,” Chalmers said. “The Eastern District will be back up and running tomorrow. If you can’t hear the sigh of relief in my voice, I’m glad that they’re coming back.”
It is a mix of “every cloud has a silver lining” (every bad situation holds the possibility of something good) and “light at the end of the tunnel” (a period of hardship is nearing its end). Both expressions involve a bad situation turning better, so this malaphor perhaps means a doubly bad situation made doubly better? Or maybe the official was thinking of silver linings for the trashcans. A big thanks to Fred Martin for hearing this one and sending it in!
Two guys were told that part of their pay would be made when their work was successfully delivered. They were told to consider it “the carrot at the end of the tunnel”. This is a nice mash up of “light at the end of the tunnel” (the end of a difficult period or job) and “carrot on a stick” (reward that is promised as an incentive to complete a task). This malaphor is probably caused by carrots and sticks having similar shapes. And maybe Bugs Bunny sitting in a tunnel pulling carrots underground? A big thanks to Bob Newstadt for hearing this one and passing it on. An additional shout out to his quick-witted friend Nax Paul Mendler for responding to the speaker with, “don’t you mean the light at the end of the stick?”
If you enjoyed this mixed idiom, you will love my book “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, now available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205.