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The malaphor: Making sense of Trump’s pack of idioms

The malaphor: Making sense of Trump’s pack of idioms

Friday 17 March, 2017
One feudal figure known as Dave, the Malaphor King, has charted the nonsensical idioms of Caesar Trump and his administration. All hail King Dave!
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One feudal figure known as Dave, the Malaphor King, has charted the nonsensical idioms of Caesar Trump and his administration. All hail King Dave!

Not content with making just America great again, the great Trump has embarked on his greatest quest yet: the evolution – nay, revolution – of the tired old sayings that clutter our English language.

How else would we hear such fantastic, picturing-painting quips, as, “he’s jumping into the frying pain with both feet” were it not for the musings of his disillusioned flock?

Indeed, we would never know just how hot cameras were, were it not for the orange man himself tweeting his disgust at Mike Pence’s treatment at the hand of some uppity stage actors, telling us how he was harassed with “cameras blazing”.

You would have just as much trouble knowing when “things are not rosy dory”, or that Hillary Clinton would be “selling [African Americans] down the tubes”, or that the new POTUS is so in tune with the common man that he has “a pulse to the ground”.

That is, of course, provided you don’t think there’s anything wrong with these descriptions, blessed with the gift of hearing both ends of the coin. Heck, maybe you just want to stay out of this linguistic kerfuffle altogether and you have no horse in this fight.

Or, maybe you’ve worked out that something’s not quite meta about these metaphors.

Enter the malaphor, a term my spellchecker objects to, and which Wiktionary defines thusly:

 “an idiom blend: an error in which two similar figures of speech are merged, producing a nonsensical result.”

Far from a phenomenon limited to the political elite, the beauty of malaphors touches all; they do not discriminate.

So proliferated (and humorous), a shrine to the literary hot pot (, appropriately), can be found on the world wide web, paying tribute to all things incorrect.

The page saw first light in mid-2012, but no doubt has only grown in might as more and more of the browsing public (and ruling elite), sought a philosophical outlet in 140 characters or less, or yearned for the warm glow of the like button.

In fact, that’s more or less how the blog came about, with admin Davemalaphor – no doubt the very same name you would find on his birth certificate – musing that he found his beginnings in periodic posts to his Facebook friends.

The blog as it stands now is his way of “sharing these goofy mixtures with everyone”. Dave, or “The Malaphor King”, as his hovering display picture boasts, even tries to post one linguistic mishap daily, “a malaphor of the day”.

Think of it like’s “word of the day”, except much more amusing, and much less useful.

“That way you will get a smile or chuckle each day, or a bit of torture, if you find them stupid and have masochistic tendencies,” King Dave says.

Dave, “The Malaphor King”, tries to post one linguistic mishap daily, “a malaphor of the day”. Think of it like’s “word of the day”, except much more amusing, and much less useful.

So righteous in his malaphoric reign, Mr Malaphor has already had a book published: a collection, complete with illustrations. Dave calls the book “a real page burner” and, spruiking the gastrointestinal benefits of the book (no, not the fibre in the pages), tells us it’s great for in the bathroom. As the saying goes, “a malaphor a day, keeps irregularity away”.

Despite the protests of my word processor, the very real word malaphor is hardly a new invention. As the King himself points out, the term is believed to have been first coined in 1976, in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post by Lawrence Harrison.

Indeed, the term even appears in academic settings, such as in a piece in the Michigan Quarterly Review, who use the concept as an example of errors in speech, in a larger discussion of the cognitive science behind error-making.

All of this, and still the squiggly red lines pepper these sentences.

Oh well. It’s probably not worth getting your panties in an uproar. This has all gone to pot in a handbag. I should thank my lucky chickens that such a collection exists.

I really like this website.


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