If he doesn’t pass the mustard, then we aren’t promoting him

Sharing must be a really big deal at this company.  I understand not passing ketchup is grounds for dismissal. Actually, this gem was uttered when discussing an internal candidate who applied for a promotion: “We can interview him, but if he doesn’t pass the mustard, then we aren’t promoting him.”  This is a congruent conflation of “cut the mustard” and “pass muster”, both meaning to perform satisfactorily. At first this just appeared to be a malaprop (misusing a word, generally similar in sound) – mustard for muster – but on closer inspection it indeed is a mash up of two idioms, hence a very nice malaphor.  A big thanks to Tiffany G. for hearing this one and passing it (and the condiment) on!

Did you like this one?  I sure did, and you can find a ton of other fun malaphors just like this one in my latest book, He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors, available on Amazon at  http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205!


Nip that in the butt

While this can be classified as a malaprop (inadvertent substitution of a word with a strong phonetic similarity), it can also be considered a bona fide malaphor, mixing “nip it in the bud” (put a stop to something in its early development) and “kick in the butt” (forceful encouragement).   I have heard this idiom misused often by younger people, so my guess is that it is probably a phrase that has mutated from the past generation (mine) to the current one.  Another example is the phrase “buck naked”, mutating to the current “butt naked”.  Still another is the word “moot” to “mute”, as in “that’s a mute point”.   Am I correct, or am I just turning into a grouchy old man?

A big thanks to Judge Yvonne for sending this one in.