This was overheard in a work conversation. It is a mashup of “a tough nut to crack” (a problem that is challenging to solve) and “tease out (something)” (to unravel or separate out something). The two idioms fused together indicate something that is hard to solve. A big thanks to Amanda Zsuzsics for hearing this one and sending it in to my facebook page, Malaphors.
I had to post this one right away, as it comes on the heels of Lara Hayhurst Compton’s “better safe than never”, which we both agree should be Planned Parenthood’s new slogan. “A tough nut to follow” was spoken by Tim Hughes, a talented actor who is currently playing the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz at the Fulton Theater in Lancaster, PA. This malaphor is a mash up of “tough act to follow” (outstanding performance) and “tough nut to crack” (difficult person or problem to deal with). Tough is the operative word here, which my guess led to the malaphor. Of course, Tim might have been referring to a difficult person who gave a great performance! This one is also similar to “tough nut to swallow” see – https://malaphors.com/2013/02/20/that-would-be-a-tough-nut-to-swallow/ A big thank you to Lara Hayhurst Compton for hearing this one and passing it on!
This clever congruent conflation is a blend of “tough nut to crack” and “bitter pill to swallow”, both referring to hard things to do. Both also contain four words, and both involve actions. And of course a tough nut is always hard to swallow,
right? A big shout out to Susan E for sending me this one that she heard her husband utter last week.