Mixed Idioms With A Resulting Nonsenical Meaning Are Known As?
One of the wonderful things about language is that there’s practically a word for everything, and if there isn’t—well, it’s just a matter of coining one. The foundation for our trivia answer today is built on two existing words, already interesting in their own right, to create a new word for an equally interesting concept.
A malapropism is a mistake wherein you replace a word with a similar sounding word that is incorrect (the word derives its name from Mrs. Malaprop in the 18th century play The Rivals, who was frequently guilty of the mistake). A metaphor is a figure of speech wherein a word or phrase is applied symbolically in a non-literal application. Smash the two concepts together, and what do you get? A malaphor: a wonderfully quirky linguistic construct that results from the mashup of two idiomatic concepts where the resulting phrase is metaphorically incorrect.
If you were to exclaim, for example, that something “wasn’t rocket surgery”, then you’d be guilty of this, as the nonsensical phrase combines the idioms “it’s not rocket science” and “it’s not brain surgery”. Similarly, “it’ll be a walk in the cake” combines “it’ll be a walk in the park” and “it’ll be a piece of cake” into a nonsensical construction. Equally nonsensical would be malaphor mashups like “he’s as dead as a fish” (conflating “he sleeps with the fishes” and “he’s as dead as a door nail”), “actions are mightier than the pen” (which, while a fine turn of phrase in its own right, is also a mashup of “actions speak louder than words” and “the pen is mightier than the sword).
Image courtesy of NASA/iTunes.