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Are "barking up the wrong bush" or "sailing on the wings of imagination" close?

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We would use "tree" and not "bush" in the first expression. I've never heard the second one, but it's quite nice. – tylerharms Dec 9 '12 at 15:28
'Cooking up false allegations' might be possible, but not, I think, baking them up. – Barrie England Dec 9 '12 at 15:29
"Barking up the wrong tree" would imply a mistake or ignorance on the part of the person doing it, not malice or deliberate concoction. – DJClayworth Dec 9 '12 at 18:50
up vote 1 down vote accepted

An idiomatic verb phrase that refers to the act of concocting false allegations is "to trump up." As in,

The child trumped up charges of domestic abuse against her mother for making asparagus for dinner.

You could also use "trump up" as an adjective describing the type of allegations.

The child's trumped up allegations were deemed selfish and were ultimately dismissed.

trump up: to devise deceitfully or dishonestly, as an accusation; fabricate.

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You might also consider "mudslinging". – DJClayworth Dec 9 '12 at 18:52

As noted in comments, “cooking up false allegations” and “barking up the wrong tree” are more-idiomatic forms of two expressions mentioned. But note (a) “making up false allegations” probably is more commonly heard than cooking them up, and (b) “barking up the wrong tree” does not refer to making up false allegations, it means to be off on a wrong track; for example, dogs barking at a tree with no racoon in it.

An interesting figurative expression is “made of whole cloth”. From wiktionary:

• (figuratively, used attributively or preceded by various prepositions) The fictitious material from which complete fabrications, lies with no basis in truth, are made. [eg] Mr. Doe's account of the accident was made from whole cloth.
• Something made completely new, with no history, and not based on anything else. [eg] The plans for the widget were drawn from whole cloth.

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I've always heard 'cut from whole cloth'. – Jim Dec 9 '12 at 20:34
@Jim, yes, I imagine “cut from whole cloth” is heard more frequently than either of the “made from” or “drawn from” forms. – jwpat7 Dec 9 '12 at 20:46

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