Salt Lake City is not through the weeds yet

This is the headline in a recent Salt Lake City Tribune newspaper article, discussing the city’s need to continue practicing social distancing and mask wearing because of the Covid-19 virus.  Here is the headline:

I think it is a mashup of “out of the woods” (out of danger) and “in the weeds” (consumed with details).  “Weeds” and woods” sound similar, contributing to the mixup.  Or perhaps Utah is thinking of legislating marijuana?  A big thanks to Kathy Shand for spotting this beauty.  @sltrib @slcmayor


They are not out of the clear

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.

We are not out of the clear

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”

Many followers caught this one, including Beatrice Zablocki, Sam Edelmann, and Frank King.  I guess this one was very clear.

It’s not out of the bag yet

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