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I’m always spinning my tail

The speaker was lamenting about his unproductive efforts.  This is a classic congruent conflation of “spinning my wheels” and “chasing my tail”, both meaning to take action that is ineffectual or does not lead to progress.  The speaker may have had an image of a cat or dog spinning around trying to catch his tail.  A tip of the hat to Steve Grieme who heard this one uttered by a friend and passed it on.

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I’m worried stiff

Heard on the MSNBC show with Chris Hayes.  This is a conflation of “scared stiff” (utterly terrified) and “worried sick” (very concerned about a person or situation).  I have heard this one a lot.  “Sick” and “stiff” are similar sounding words, contributing to the mashup.  A big thanks to Frank King for hearing this one!

If you liked this one, check out my book on malaphors, “He Smokes Like a Fish and other Malaphors”.  It’s available on Amazon for a cheap $7.99.  Just click on the link – https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205


Smart as a tack

This is an example of a perfectly formed malaphor.  It is a congruent conflation (the best kind of malaphor, imho) of “smart as a whip” and “sharp as a tack”, both describing someone as highly intelligent.  Smart and sharp are similar sounding words, and both idioms contain the “as a” words.  Also, if you sit on a tack, it does smart, doesn’t it?  The mashup is also heard in the Adam Sandler movie, “Big Daddy”.  Here’s the clip:

A big thanks to Martin Pietrucha who heard this one and sent it in.


My mother could dance you under the table

This one was heard at a retirement party for an organist/choirmaster. In recounting her history, the organist talked about how her mother had a great sense of rhythm, which she inherited.  This is a mashup of “dance up a storm” (dance with intensity) and “drink you under the table” (to be able to drink more alcohol than someone else).  Drinking and dancing both start with the letter “d” and both actions are often both associated together, hence the mix up.

The phrase appears in the Urban Dictionary with a decidedly different definition.  https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Danced%20Her%20Under%20The%20Table.  A tip of the hat to Barry Eigen, who heard this one and submitted it to Malaphor Central.


Starting to make a turn back?

This crazy word blend mash up is courtesy of a tweet from President Donald Trump.  Here is the tweet:

This is a word blend of “”turnaround” ( a complete change in opinion or method) and “comeback” (a return to popularity).  As I have noted before in previous posts, malaphors can be word blends or idiom blends.  The word blend seems to be a less common phenomenon.


This is the big, 40,000 foot question

Tim Mak, NPR political reporter on the NPR radio show, Here and Now, was discussing the recent indictment of Roger Stone.  He was retelling what was in the indictment, but questioning what evidence Special Counsel Robert Mueller has in his possession.  This gem can be heard at 5:15 of the following:

https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/01/25/roger-stone-indicted

This is a wonderful conflation of “the 64,000 dollar question” (a question very important and/or difficult to answer) and “the 10,000 (or sometimes 20, 30, or 40,000) foot view” (a description of a problem or issue that provides general information, but short on details).  Idioms containing numbers are often jumbled.  I have posted some other great ones, such as “hindsight is 50/50” (https://malaphors.com/2016/12/20/hindsight-is-5050/) and “we were 3 sheets passing in the night” (https://malaphors.com/2016/10/25/we-were-3-sheets-passing-in-the-night/).  A big thanks to Tom Justice for hearing this one and sending it in!


You can’t get a leopard to change his stripes

This was uttered by an employee commenting on a work group that seem set in its ways.  It is a nice congruent conflation of “a leopard cannot change its spots” and “can’t change one’s stripes”, both meaning that people are incapable of changing their essential nature.  The speaker might also have been thinking of the expression “a tiger cannot change its stripes”, meaning the same as the two expressions above.  Confusing tigers and leopards is certainly understandable, both being big cats.  A big thanks to Steven Michael for hearing this one!