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.


To add salt to injury

This mixup was found in the following newspaper:

It is a congruent conflation of  “to rub salt in the wound’ and “to add insult to injury”, both meaning to deliberately make someone’s misfortune or unhappiness worse.  “Wound” and “injury” are similar meaning words, probably creating the mental mashup.  Now if the writer had written “add-in salt to injury” that would be an eggcorn.  An eggcorn is a similar sounding phrase spelled differently.   Because of the similar sounding words, this is a very common malaphor, with over 2,300,000 hits, according to Google.  A big thanks to Eve for spotting this one.

They make you jump through too much red tape

The speaker was referring to insurance companies.  This is a nice mix of “jump through hoops” (to complete or face many challenges to achieve something) and “red tape” (bureaucratic rules that are overly strict or tedious).  Both expressions refer to a series of challenges or events, contributing to the confusion.  “Cutting through red tape” is what the speaker really wants.  A big thanks to John Kooser for uttering this one and sending it in.

I couldn’t pass it down

Josh Taylor, weekend host of @937TheFan, a sports show in Pittsburgh, uttered this gem when discussing an opportunity that he didn’t think he had time for.  It is a blend of “pass it up” (skip or ignore)  and “turn it down” (to reject something).  The directions “up” and “down” in the idioms no doubt caused the confusion.  I have a hard time knowing what’s up and what’s down these days myself.  A big thanks to John Kooser who spotted this one!

Something you really can’t pass down is my malaphor book, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, now on Amazon for a cheap 6.99.  Here is the link to non-stop hilarity:

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!

I’m at my loose ends

This one is very subtle, as it is a conflation of “at loose ends” (uneasy) and “at my wit’s end” (in a state of distress where patience has been lost).  Both idioms are very similar sounding, but only one as the word “my” in it.  A big thanks to Lisa Simpson for hearing this one and sending it in to the Malaphors page on Facebook.  Join the page today!