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A malaphor: a blend of "Don't burn your bridges" and "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."


An informal term for a mixture of two aphorisms, idioms, or clichés (such as "That's the way the cookie bounces").

The term malaphor--a blend of malapropism and metaphor--was coined by Lawrence Harrison in the Washington Post article "Searching for Malaphors" (August 6, 1976).

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • Blends at the phrase level:
    "You hit the nail right on the nose."
    (A combination of "You hit the nail right on the head" and "That’s right on the nose.”)

    "She really stuck her neck out on a limb."
    ("Stuck her neck out" and "went out on a limb") . . .

    "I can’t make these split-minute decisions."
    (split-second; last-minute)
    (Douglas Hofstadter and David Moser, "To Err Is Human; To Study Error-Making Is Cognitive Science." Michigan Quarterly Review, 1989)

  • "Midge not only spoke plainly, she had a language locution all her own. When I asked her if she didn't occasionally want to go out on the road with Wes, she said, 'Hell, no. When Wes mentions it, I just nip the idea in the butt.' I told Jack later about these 'Midgisms,' and we agreed that they were a blending of malaprop and metaphor, so we portmanteaued the two into 'malaphor."
    (Stella Suberman, When It Was Our War: A Soldier's Wife on the Home Front. Algonquin Books, 2003)

  • Examples From Richard Lederer
    It's time to swallow the bullet.

    It's as easy as falling off a piece of cake.

    Let dead dogs sleep.

    That guy's out to butter his own nest.

    He's between a rock and the deep blue sea.
    (Richard Lederer, Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon the English Language, rev. ed. Wyrick, 2006)

  • Master: I'm sorry to hear, Pat, that your wife is dead.
    Patrick: Faith an' 'tis a sad day for us all, sir. The hand that rocked the cradle has kicked the bucket.
    (The Gateway: A Magazine Devoted to Literature, Economics and Social Service, October 1908)

  • "'True.' Carl grunted. 'If I believed in anything, I'd agree this country is going to hell in a handbag . . . but since I don't, I won't.'"
    (Sharon Baldacci, A Sundog Moment. Warner Faith, 2004)

For additional examples, visit the website of the Malaphor King--Malaphors.

Also Known As: idiom blend
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