The covid-19 thing has really thrown a wrench in us sideways

This one comes from the Washington Post.  It is a mashup of “throw a (monkey) wrench in the works” (to do something that prevents a plan from succeeding) and “knock (someone) sideways” (to upset, confuse, or shock).  Maybe “thrown (someone) for a loop” (to confuse or shock) is also in the mix.  The expression “throw a (monkey) wrench in the works” seems to be garbled a lot.  I have posted several malaphors involving the expression, including “throw another kink in the fire”, “a wrench had been thrown in the bucket”, and “he really threw a monkey wrench into that fire”.,,

Here’s the cite:

A tip of the hat to Barry Eigen who spotted this timely malaphor.

He needs to get his act in gear

This simple but great malaphor was uttered on the Kojo Nnamdi NPR radio program during a panel discussion.  The speaker could not be identified.  It is a mashup of “get his act together” (improve) and “get his ass in gear” (hurry up).  “Act” and “ass” sound alike so this almost is like an eggcorn.  What is an eggcorn, you might ask?  An eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker’s dialect (sometimes called oronyms). The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original but plausible in the same context, such as “old-timers’ disease” for “Alzheimer’s disease” (Wikipedia).

I have heard this malaphor often, and am surprised I have never posted this one.  A big thanks to David Barnes for hearing this one and sending it in.

We’re behind the ball

This one was uttered by James Hamblin on the CNN show Reliable Sources.  It’s a mashup of “behind the curve” (something or someone not quite able to keep up), and “behind the eight ball” (in a difficult situation or at a disadvantage).  Either way I think Mr. Hamblin is right!  “Behind” is found in both idioms, creating the mental hiccup.  “On the ball” (alert or aware) might also be in the mix, but I doubt that the speaker was thinking that way, given the context.  A big thanks to John Polk from @ClichesGoneWild for posting this one! @jameshamblin @ReliableSources


When the chips are falling apart

The submitter’s doctor has been sending daily emails with COVID-19 updates.  One update contained today’s malaphor.  Here’s the whole paragraph:

It’s happening. Antivirals, old drugs, and new drugs, monoclonal antibodies, filters, passive use of recovered patient serum. When the chips are falling apart, that is when we find the strength to rebuild. That is who we are.

This is a mashup of “when the chips are down” (a stuation has become difficult) and “let the chips fall where they may” (allow events to unfold naturally).  Both expressions have the word “chips” in them, probably the source of the conflation.  Also, “things are falling apart” (collapsing or breaking down) is probably in the mix, considering “falling apart” is part of the malaphor and it fits in context.  A shout out to Barry Eigen who spotted this one.  Barry also noted that in 2016 the chips in chip credit cards were falling apart.


Those are bitter grapes to swallow

Martin Pietrucha, loyal malaphor follower, unintentionally uttered this one the other night while talking with his kids.  It is a mashup of “sour grapes” (someone is angry or bitter because he has not gotten something that he wants) and “a bitter pill to swallow” (an unwanted situation that someone is forced to accept).  “Sour” and “bitter” seem to be the culprits here, both are two of the five basic tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami).  Also one swallows grapes as well as pills.  A big thanks to Martin for sending this one in.

That’s skating very close to the wind

Dr. Zeke Emanuel on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports was talking about some of the problems associated with the response to the corona virus, and uttered this gem.  It is a congruent conflation of “skating on thin ice” and “sailing close to the wind”, both meaning to do something risky or dangerous.  Skating and sailing are the culprits here.  A big thanks to David Stephens for hearing this one and sending it in.
Did you enjoy this one?  If so you might like the book on malaphors, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon now.  Since you are quarantined, what else do you have to do?


All the stacks are in his favor

Helene Cooper, reporter for the New York Times, speaking about Joe Biden, uttered this nice one on Meet the Press.  It’s an incongruent conflation of “the odds are in (someone’s) favor” (someone is likely to win) and “the deck (or cards) is stacked against (someone)”  Ms. Cooper is a regular on this site, having uttered more than a few malaphors.  A big thanks to Robert J. Smith for hearing this one and passing it on.