The humorist H. Allen Smith used this phrase as the title of a book (1941) after the radio comedian Fred Allen had used the term to describe him in an introduction to an earlier book. The position on an actual totem pole bu the way, has no such signficiance. Nevertheless, the term caught on quickly enough to become a cliche.
Introducing my new Malaphor book: “Things Are Not Rosy-Dory: Malaphors From Politicians and Pundits”Posted: July 3, 2020
LaToya Cantrell, mayor of New Orleans, was discussing police actions and public safety on the MSNBC show, “All In with Chris Hayes”. This is a mashup of “turned the corner” (begun to have improvement or success after a difficult or troubling period) and “ahead of the curve” (better than average). Both idioms are about success or improvement. Although the topic was not about the pandemic, “flatten the curve” (slowing down the spread of a disease) was probably on the speaker’s mind as well. A big thanks to Frank King for hearing this one. You can hear this malaphor at approximately 16 minutes into the show:
The speaker was commenting on another person’s political statement that was based on a lie rather than fact. It is a rare, three-way malaphor, combining “frame of mind” (mental or emotional attitude or mood), “mindset” (a person’s attitudes or opinions formed from earlier experiences), and “living in a world of (one’s) own” (consumed by one’s thoughts or imagination). A big thanks to David Barnes for hearing and spotting this unicorn in the malaphor wilds.
At first blush, this looked more like a mixed metaphor than a malaphor, but on close inspection it is indeed a mashup of two idioms. This one comes from the local news in Baltimore: a Baltimore City official was giving an update on trash/garbage pickup problems, and trashmen were off work as a result of the coronavirus. Here is the quote:
“This last week has been extremely difficult for everyone involved, but there is a silver lining at the end of that tunnel,” Chalmers said. “The Eastern District will be back up and running tomorrow. If you can’t hear the sigh of relief in my voice, I’m glad that they’re coming back.”
It is a mix of “every cloud has a silver lining” (every bad situation holds the possibility of something good) and “light at the end of the tunnel” (a period of hardship is nearing its end). Both expressions involve a bad situation turning better, so this malaphor perhaps means a doubly bad situation made doubly better? Or maybe the official was thinking of silver linings for the trashcans. A big thanks to Fred Martin for hearing this one and sending it in!
This unfortunately comes from a sad passage in an article about Covid-19 deaths, but it’s a malaphor nonetheless. Here’s the sentence: “And then things kind of petered off a little bit in those areas, and now we’re kind of seeing it getting closer and wondering when we’re gonna have to deal with this. But again, we’re preparing for it as best as we can in the hospitals that I’m working for.” This is a congruent conflation of “petered out” and “tapered off”, both meaning to diminish gradually and then stop. Here’s the link to the article: https://link.esquire.com/view/5976491c487ccd1f468b4eedc874i.3ql/6cadebe4
A special thanks to Barry Eigen for spotting this one, and for his wise counsel about not posting a descriptive picture of this malaphor.
Uttered by an engineer at a conference call. This is a nice congruent conflation of ” the ball’s in your court” and “the onus is on them”, both meaning under one’s control or responsibility. I suppose if the ball is not only in your court but actually ON you then you might have a heightened responsibility. Malaphors are like that sometime; they improve our established idioms. This one is similar to a previous post, “The ball’s in your hand now”. https://malaphors.com/2018/07/04/the-balls-in-your-hand-now/
A big thanks to Mike Kovacs for hearing this one and sending it in.
The ball’s on you to discover more malaphors by getting my book, “He Smokes LIke a Fish and Other Malaphors”, available on Amazon. Just click on the link here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205. Also stay tuned for my upcoming malaphor book dedicated to those mashups uttered by politicians and pundits over the past four years. It is top of the notch!
A dentist said this one as he explained all the new things he has to do because of the virus. This is a congruent conflation of “I’m still getting the hang of it” and “I’m still learning the ropes”, both meaning to learn how to do a particular job or task. So, as we begin to reopen the country, make sure and get a few ropes. A big thanks to Barry Eigen for hearing this one and sending it in.