Kathleen Parker from the Washington Post uttered this one on MSNBC (the malaphor channel), talking about Nikki Haley. It is a conflation of “toeing the line” (adhering to the rules of something) and “threading the needle” (pass something through a narrow space between two things). Both idioms make sense in context, and perhaps Ms. Parker’s malaphor is really an economical way of expressing two ideas at once. A big thanks to Jim Kozlowski for hearing this one and passing it on.
Alex Witt on MSNBC’s Live with Alex Witt uttered this on Saturday, October 13. It is a nice mashup of “get the lowdown” (receiving specific facts or information on a situation) and “get the down and dirty” (receive uninhibited and direct news). At first I thought he might have just inverted the phrase “the lowdown” but in context he was thinking of “down and dirty” as well. A big thanks to Frank King who always gives the down low.
This was uttered by a guest on MSNBC’s Live with David Gura on Saturday September 15. It is a nice conflation of “skeletons in the closet” (embarrassing or shameful secrets) and “knows where all the bodies are buried” (know everything about someone, especially secret things that they might not want revealed). Bodies become skeletons when buried and rotting in the ground; hence the mash up. Also both expressions involve secrets. A big thanks to Frank King for hearing this one and dishing it up.
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.
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.
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.
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.