Tag Archives: malapropisms

Mixed mementos

I tacked a day onto this week’s business travel to visit my mother in Phoenix. We had a nice time, and now off to work I go.

There’s one thing I’d like to tell you about the visit, only because it speaks volumes about how I got to be the way I am.

Before I arrived, my mother had been going through some boxes of family mementos. She had taken a few relics out to share with me. There were some old family photos, obituaries, news clippings (one about my grandfather, who was hit by a truck in 1939). In with the collection was a list of mixed metaphors.

My mother and her brother had collected these over the years. She and her siblings were blessed—or cursed—with a reverence for the English language and genetically endowed—or cursed—with a perverse sense of humor.

My cousins might be surprised to learn that these treasures, which until now were only traded aloud at family parties, dwell on typed pages (I’m bringing you copies). I trust it’s okay to share these here, as I presume the utterers have either passed on or aren’t reading this blog. While my uncle collected many during an illustrious career, my mother gathered others from friends and talk show hosts.

I did share a few from memory in earlier posts on malapropismsmixed metaphors and other mix-ups, but here’s from the official family archive:

“That will take the steam out of their sails.”

“I’ll get that done by tomorrow, come hook or crook.”

“I’ve been beating my head against the bushes all day.”

“Oh, well, it’s all water over the bridge.”

“You could have knocked me over with a 10-foot pole.”

“Now the fat’s in the frying pan.”

“He’s really treading on thin water.”

“It was as hard as pulling hen’s teeth.”

“You can’t beat blood out of a dead horse.”

“How the Sam Hell!”

“I’m afraid there is no outlook in sight.”

“All right gentlemen, let us circumcise our watches.”

“That guy’s got a rough hoe.”

“He’s still green behind the ears.”

“That guy just beats to a different drummer.”

Commentary on something bad: “Well, that’s the luck of the Irish!”

After a harrowing visit to the dentist: “When that drill hit a nerve, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”

On excellence: “He was head above shoulders.”

And my personal favorite: “When in Rome, you have to dance to the music.”

Have a good week and keep your metaphors separated.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends

Sunday schooling

My thanks go to Merl Reagle, editor of the crossword puzzle in The Washington Post’s Sunday magazine, who practically wrote this blog post for me.

I had intended to write a follow-up to pieces I posted earlier on mispronunciations, misspellings and malapropisms. Then Sunday’s puzzle beat me to it, using something Reagle called “eggcorns.” 

Spoiler alert:  If you haven’t done the Sunday puzzle and intend to, you will want to skip over this for now.

Eggcorns, Reagle explains, are things people say and write that are technically incorrect but have a logic of their own.  For example, the business located to the right of yours is “next store.”  Get it? 

In the puzzle, the clues are what make the incorrect phrases or spellings correct.  I will leave it to you to read those in the crossword itself.  Here I will list a few of the answers as examples of commonly misspelled or mis-uttered phrases.  We should take note, as I suspect we’ve all made at least one of these errors in our lifetimes.  Recognize any?

  1. wet one’s appetite
  2. butt naked
  3. hone in on
  4. sacreligious
  5. bellweather
  6. laxadaisical
  7. expatriot
  8. Here, here
  9. unchartered waters
  10. a tough road to hoe

If any of these looks correct to you, see me after class and I will tell you what it is supposed to be.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Reading