James Joseph, senior FEMA administrator, on CNN, told people in Florida not to ignore warnings and think themselves safe from the effects of the oncoming hurricane Dorian. It’s a congruent conflation of “out of the woods” and “in the clear”, both meaning to be free of danger. Perhaps the speaker was thinking of a clearing in the woods. “Out of danger”, also meaning to be free of danger, might also be in the mix. A big thanks to “my ol’ pal” Beatrice Zablocki for hearing this one.
This dandy conflation comes straight from the mouth of Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show. She was discussing Russian interference in the U.S. Presidential election and explained that “we are not out of the clear”. This is congruent conflation of “out of the woods” and “in the clear”, both meaning to be free from danger or suspicion of wrongdoing. This malaphor was repeated by MSNBC on its twitter feed: Sen. Kamala Harris: “We’re not out of the clear in terms of 2018 election cycle” https://twitter.com/MSNBC/status/952057691974881280
Many followers caught this one, including Beatrice Zablocki, Sam Edelmann, and Frank King. I guess this one was very clear.
A discussion took place about a potential contract. The person pursuing the contract said there were significant problems, “but it’s not out of the bag yet”. This is a good example of an incongruent conflation (mixing two idioms with opposite meanings). It is a mash up of “in the bag” (a certain thing) and “out of reach” (unattainable). “Not out of the woods” (not past a critical phase) may also be in the mix, as it seems in context with the speaker’s intention that obtaining the contract has not quite been achieved. Opposite words such as “in” and “out” seem to confuse the brain and mouth frequently. Kudos to Sam Edelmann for hearing this one and passing it on.
Do you hear these a lot? Do you say them a lot? If so, buy my book on malaphors – He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors available now on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205.