The guardrails are coming off

This one is from a CNN news story:  “The White House official who was in contact with CNN’s Brown said that with the impending departures of both Chief of Staff John Kelly and Mattis, there is a feeling that the guardrails are coming off. The official says “of course it’s crazy. Anyone looking at this has got to think there’s some craziness going on.”
This is a congruent conflation of “off the rails” and “the wheels are coming off”,  both meaning a state of chaos or disorder.   The words “rails” and “wheels” were confused, probably due to the association of both of them (wheels on a railroad car).  Of course, if the guardrails are removed, a state of chaos would probably ensue.  A big thanks to Ron MacDonald for spotting this one.

The investigation has really hit the rails

This mix up, concerning the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the US presidential election, was heard on NPR.  It’s a mashup of “off the rails” (in a state of disorder or chaos) and “hit the fan” (become a scandal).  Not sure which idiom the speaker intended, as both could fit in context.  Perhaps the speaker had a mental image of the hobo catching a ride on a train and “hitting the rails”.  A tip of the toque to JoErin Mahokey for hearing this one and passing it on!

P.S.  Yvonne Stam, frequent contributor, added this additional explanation: “I would offer ‘hit the wall’ (reach a point of exhaustion) and ‘hit a wall’ (unable to make further progress) as well.”  Agreed!  Thanks Yvonne!