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Fun with idioms, or we could stand here and talk until the cows turn blue

I found this great website that collects all the mixed idioms from news sources. An idiom is a way of speaking that is natural to native speakers of a language. Idioms offer advice about how to live and also assign some underlying ideas, principles and values of the culture or society.

The word combinations generally are not complete sentences. They make sense to native speakers of a language, but for those who aren’t native speakers, idioms can create some funny pictures in your head.

I did a search for mixed-up idioms because this morning, my husband mentioned someone with whom he works does this all the time. “Nip it in the butt” is the one that makes me laugh. While it’s not exactly a mixed-up idiom, it is definitely confused. Correct usage is “nip it in the bud,” which refers to stopping something before it gets too far. According to, the phrase “nip it in the bud” alludes to a spring frost that kills the flower buds, and was first used in a Beaumont and Fletcher play of 1606–1607.

So that led me to the Malaphors website: “Unintentional blended idioms and phrases – It's the cream of the cake!”

That’s “cream of the crop” and the “icing on the cake.”

I discovered there a few websites dedicated to the confused and confusing turn of phrase. Mixed Idioms is a British site that collects and shares them, too. Some of my favourites are:

  • For all nonsense and purposes, this is the same vehicle, a mix of “for all intents and purposes,” and nonsense.

  • I can read you like a clock, which mashes up “I can read you like a book” and “like clockwork.”

  • It's time to swallow the bullet, which mashes up “bite the bullet” and “swallow the pill,” as in, it’s time to make a decision.

Do you have some favourite mashed-up idioms?

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