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The cart’s out of the barn. You can’t put it back in the bottle.

This multi-faceted malaphor was uttered by Sam Stein, Politics Editor of The Daily Beast.  He was discussing Trump’s inadvertent confessions.  This is a three way malaphor, mashing up “the cat’s out of the bag” (the secret has been made known), “closing the barn door after the horse has bolted” (trying to prevent a problem after the damage has been done),  and “can’t put the genie back in the bottle” (can’t go back to the state you were in before an important change happened).  Cats and carts sound alike, contributing to the confusion.  All three idioms describe a situation where something has changed and it cannot be reversed.  So, all three are appropriate in context, but perhaps not jumbled together.  A big thanks to Ron MacDonald for hearing this gem.

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They don’t want to count their chickens before they roost

Zerlina Maxwell on MSNBC’s “Live with Katie Tur” uttered this beauty when she was talking about Democrats avoiding calls for impeaching Trump.  This is a barnyard mashup of “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” (don’t make future plans before they happen) and “chickens come home to roost” (you have to face the consequences of your mistakes).  “Chickens” of course are the culprit here, contributing to the mental yolk.  These  fowl phrases seem to get mixed up a lot  – see “Never count your eggs before they hatch (July 9, 2012 post) , and “Might the roosters be guarding the henhouse?” (August 2, 2014 post).  I was eggcited when several people laid this one on me.  First was the ubiquitous Mike Kovacs, followed quickly by James Kozlowski and Bob Maxwell.  Malaphor spotters are everywhere it seems.

 


The fish stinks from the head

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) uttered this on the Chris Hayes show (Ali Velshi filling in) the other night, referring to Trump.  She said, “The Italians have an expression ‘the fish stinks from the head’.”  Well, actually, the expression is “the fish rots from the head down”, meaning bad leaders damage an organization, and her comment mixes the idiom  “stink to high heaven”, meaning to be or seem extremely corrupt or disreputable.  Rotting sure gives off a stink so it is understandable that the speaker got confused.  Another big thank you to Frank King, our MSNBC Malaphor Reporter.


They would throw him to the fishes

Representative Steve Cohen (D – TN) was talking on MSNBC about the New York Times report that White House counsel Don McGahn has been cooperating with the Mueller investigation team for the past year.  Cohen was speculating that McGahn felt at risk of Trump using him as a fall guy in the obstruction of justice probe, and so uttered this beauty.  It is a mashup of “thrown to the wolves” (to sacrifice someone in order to protect others) and “swimming (or sleeping) with the fishes” (a gangster cliche meaning to be murdered).  Both idioms refer to a person who gets hurt; hence, the mix up.  Cohen may also have been thinking about the mafia way of doing business and the White House way of doing business.  A big thanks to chief malaphor hunter Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and sending it in.


Today he evened out the scales

This was uttered by Julia Ainsley on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes show.  She was referring to Manafort’s lawyer cross-examining Rick Gates.  It is a mashup of three idioms:  “even out” (to make something more balanced), “even the score” (avenge a wrong), and “balance the scales” (to make even).  A big thanks to Frank King for hearing this one and sending it in.


Trump held Michael Cohen at arm’s distance

This ditty was uttered on July 20 by Stephanie Ruhle on MSNBC’s “Velshi and Ruhle”.  It is a nice congruent conflation of “at arm’s length” and “keep at a distance”, both meaning to keep someone from becoming too close.  Perhaps a “distance” is farther than an “arm”?  I imagine that fits in this context.  A big thanks to Frank King, the Mental Health Comedian, for hearing this one and sending it in.


He cleared muster

“The Master” strikes again.  Chris Matthews uttered this beauty on the Rachel Maddow show on July 9, 2018, referring to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  It is a congruent conflation of “passed muster” and “cleared for approval”, both meaning to be accepted as adequate.  Pass/clear is the mixup here.  Anyone who visits this site regularly knows Mr. Matthews is a malaphor goldmine.   A big thanks to “Eagle-Ear” Frank King, the Mental Health Comedian, for hearing this one and sending it in.