This is a terrific congruent conflation of “missed the boat” and “dropped the ball”, both meaning to have made an error or mistake. Maybe the speaker was experiencing an earworm of that 1974 song “Rock the Boat” by the one hit wonder group Hues Corporation. In any event, this double whammy can be used to describe the mother of all mistakes. A big thanks to Marcia Riefer Johnston who sent this one in and is a new malaphor follower. By the way, she has a great website, http://writing.rocks. Check it out!
This congruent malaphor mixes the similar meaning phrases “upset the apple cart” and “rock the boat”. A good example of the use of this malaphor is in a description of an Upper West Side apartment for rent:
“Minimum Age Limit For Renters : If you are coming to NYC for a big party weekend, this is probably not your place. I have fabulous neighbors and there is a great, great staff and take great care to not rock the apple cart.”
A personal favorite of mine (in fact it is the tagline under my picture), this is a mixture of “don’t rock the boat” (don’t upset people by trying to change the situation) and “feed at the trough” (getting something, usually money, without working), both describing passivity and compliance. This malaphor is unusual in that the combination actually is closer in definition to a third phrase – “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” (don’t criticize the person or organization that helps or pays you).