A yankering

A couple were talking about what cocktail to have, and the wife said “I didn’t know what you had a yankering for”. This is a great single word blend AND congruent conflation of “having a yen for” and “having a hankering for”, both meaning to have a strong desire or craving for something.

One may ask, “but Dave, isn’t this a portmanteau”? Not really.

The main difference is that a portmanteau is an intentional word blend while a malaphor is unintentional.  There are other differences:

A portmanteau is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes, and their definitions, into one new word. A portmanteau word generally combines both sounds and meanings, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog. More generally, it may refer to any term or phrase that combines two or more meanings, for instance, the term “wurly” when describing hair that is both wavy and curly.

The word “portmanteau” was first used in this context by Lewis Carroll in the book Through the Looking-Glass (1871), in which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky, where “slithy” means “lithe and slimy” and “mimsy” is “flimsy and miserable”. Humpty Dumpty explains the practice of combining words in various ways by telling Alice,

‘You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.’

My single word blend malaphors are unconscious blends of words to make an unintentional new word. The word sounds or looks correct at first blush, but then on closer examination is incorrect. Examples so far on my website are “Buckminster Palace” (Buckingham and Westminster, and/or possibly Buckminster Fuller) and “split-minute decision” (split second and last minute).

“Yankering” fits the definition of single work blend malaphor. First, it was said unintentionally. Second, the blend did not form a new word. Third, it did not combine two or more meanings. Having said all that, I sure would like to see “yankering” added to the dictionary. Maybe with the definition “a REALLY STRONG desire or craving for something”.

A big thanks to Barry Eigen who heard his wife say this, and knew malaphor gold had struck.


You can look it up in your Strunk and Wagnalls

Not quite Rowan and Martin. The submitter’s wife uttered this nice word blend, which is a conflation of “Funk and Wagnalls” (dictionary/encyclopedia) and “Strunk and White” (American English writing style guide).  The Funk/Strunk rhyming is obviously the culprit here.  A big thanks to Martin Pietrucha for hearing this one and sending it in.

If you want to look up “malaphors”, purchase the malaphor book, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, on Amazon.  Makes a great stocking stuffer (or fire starter).

It’s a powerhorse

Bill Goldberg, host of the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire” uttered this word blend malaphor when describing a particular sword.  This is a congruent conflation of “powerhouse” and “workhorse”, both describing a person or thing having great energy or strength.

Word blends are a subset of malaphors.  They are an unintentional blending of two or more words.  If you type word blend in the search engine on this blog or go to the index and scroll down to Word Blends you will see the many word blends I have posted.  Some examples are “Buckminster Abbey” (Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey and maybe Buckminster Fuller), and “blinched” (flinched and blinked).  The word blend malaphor is different than the portmanteau.  A portmanteau is an intentional blend of two words to create a new word with its own definition.  An example is smog (fog and smoke).  Word blend malaphors are simply mixed up words with no separate definition and are said unintentionally.  I hope you enjoyed my wordplay lesson of the day.

A big thank you to Anthony Kovacs for hearing this word blend and sending it in.


I was trying to buttercoat it

From the submitter:  “My coworker just said this when complimenting my singing. He used an expletive the first time, but when he repeated it, he used a euphemism in place of the expletive. When I said, “That’s not what you said before,” he said he was trying to buttercoat it, not realizing that he was mixing two expressions. When I told him that what he just said is a malaphor of butter up and sugarcoat, he said that it perfectly conveyed his sentiment.”

This is a great word blend of “sugarcoat” (palatable, or easy to take) and “butter up” (to be nice to someone by flattery or other means).  I think this should be a new phrase in the lexicon, and the above situation is a great example.  A big thanks to Diana for sharing this one!



The speaker meant to say “package” but this came out.  It is  a nice word blend malaphor  of “box” and “package”.  Since most packages in the mail now come in boxes, thanks to Amazon and the internet, “bockage” was eventually going to be spit out by someone.   And really, isn’t it a nice word?  Sounds like the lord of the manor pronouncing “package”.  Also could be used when there are delays in shipping:  “Sorry, we have a bockage right now”.   A big thanks to Martin Pietrucha who accidentally blurted this one out and shared it immediately!

If you like this word blend check out my book on malaphors entitled “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon.  Just click this link:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205.  There’s a whole chapter devoted to word blends, which are not portmanteaus, by the way (explanation in the book!).

Hillary Clinton is in the process of refudiating everything that Mr. Trump says

This nice word blend malaphor was uttered by Sean Jackson, chairman of the Florida Black Republican Caucus and Trump supporter, on MSNBC’s Hardball.  Mr. Jackson stated, “Hillary Clinton is in the process of refudiating everything that Mr. Trump says by trying to make him out to be the bigot.” See http://www.msnbc.com/transcripts/hardball/2016-08-26

This is a mash up of “repudiating” (rejecting the validity or authority) and “refuting” (proving or saying that something is not true).   Word blend malaphors are an interesting subset of idiom blend malaphors.  There are quite a few posted on this website.  A shout out to Sam Edelmann who heard this one and passed it on!

If you liked this malaphor from the political world, you will want to get the book “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”, available on Amazon!  There is a whole chapter devoted to mash ups from politics.


Rusty is cowarding in the bathroom

Linda Bernstein, loyal malaphor follower, related this one from the Fourth of July. Fireworks were being set off all around, and Rusty the dog hid away in the interior bathroom to get away from the loud noises.    Her grandson Nick then exclaimed that “Rusty is cowarding in the bathroom”.    This is a nice word blend of cowering and coward.   Cowards do often cower, and the words sound similar, so the mix up is a perfect blend.    As many of you know, most malaphors are idiom blends but once in awhile two words are blended together to make a nice word blend malaphor.  These are very different than portmanteaus, as I have explained in previous posts.  A hat tip to Linda Bernstein for sending this beauty in!

I have a quandrum

A spin on MLK’s famous speech?  No, but a pretty good word blend,  combining “quandary” (dilemma) and “conundrum” (a puzzle).  As I have explained in previous posts, single word malaphors are different than portmanteaus.  A portmanteau is an intentional blending of two words to form a new word with a specific meaning, such as “smog” (a blend of smoke and fog).  A single word malaphor is an unintentional blending of two words to create a new word that is incorrect, such as “Buckminster Palace” (Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace), or a “faceover” (makeover and facelift).  Interestingly, Quandrum is the name of a Belgian Ale brewed by the Barrel of Monks brewery located in Boca Raton, Florida.  It is described as a “quadraphonic Belgian style quadrupel aged several months in rum barrels”.   Cheers!   A big shout out to Tiffany G. for hearing this one and passing it on!

Want to know more about single word malaphors?  Buy my book, He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors.  An entire chapter is devoted to these little gems.  Available now on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205


That’s just peachy-dory!

This is a mash up of the expressions peachy keen and hunky-dory, both meaning fine or satisfactory.  This seems to be a fairly common malaphor, based on internet hits.  Now hunky keen is a different matter….Thanks to Char Stone for sending this one in!


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Our salt supplies are deplenished

This is a word blend of “depleted” (to use up or empty out) and “replenish” (to fill up).  Since REplenish means to fill again, then it is reasonable to assume DEplenish would mean the opposite.  I heard this one on the Pittsburgh CW 10:00 news,  in a discussion of salt supplies in Cleveland.  Although malaphors are generally mixed phrases or idioms, they can appear as mixed words or word blends as well.  See my other word blends in the category list under Word Blends.