I was just now looking online for the meaning of the idiom "leave it or lump it," and found it on Malaphors:

(leave it or lump it) is a mash up of “love it or leave it” (be supportive of your country or leave) and “like it or lump it” (take that or none).

It is apparently a malaphor, which is a new type of word I have never heard before.

So what is a malaphor?

P.S I searched questions at EL&U for malaphor and drew a blank. So I searched Google (please don't tell me I should have searched Google first!) and got some interesting information which I will use to answer my own question which is said to be encouraged at Stack Exchange websites. Anybody else is also welcome to post answers and comments.


1 Answer 1


Malaphor is a word that first appeared on August 6th, 1976 in a Washington Post op-ed piece by Lawrence Harrison according to malaphors.com. It is still finding its way into common use and apparently not (yet) found in standard English dictionaries. It denotes the (usually unintentional) mixing of idioms to produce a nonsensical statement that is nonetheless quite effective at conveying the intended message, because the idioms inadvertently mixed up usually have the same meaning, which is not lost in the mixing. The long-standing, accepted term for this phenomenon is "mixing of metaphors."

malaphor noun [plural malaphors] (rare neologism) An idiom blend: an error in which two similar figures of speech are merged, producing a nonsensical result.

Examples include "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it" (from "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it" and "burn one's bridges"), "stir the apple cart" (from "upset the apple cart" and "stir the pot") and "Make like a bread truck and split" (from "Make like a bread truck and haul buns" and "Make like a banana and split.")

This excerpt is from Wiktionary's Malaphor Entry, which is licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0 terms.

An example of an intentional malaphor is "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it" which was used in the song “Burn That Bridge” by musician Jimmy Buffett.

Some hilarious new expressions can be served up by such accidental or intentional mixing -- it keeps the language vibrant and brings a smile to the dourest face. More information and examples can be found at the following websites:

Here are some possible examples of future use:

I like metaphors, misappropisms and malaphors.
Don't mix your malaphors, the teacher said.
What is your favorite malaphor?

I know that it's always better to use the correct metaphors and idioms, but read malaphors and keep smiling!

  • 2
    My favorite: President Lyndon Johnson was once quoted in Time magazine: "Don't throw the baby out with the dishes."
    – Xanne
    May 25, 2017 at 0:09
  • @Xanne it is said that mixed metaphors in speech can result from a mental 'crossing of wires' when both the appropriate idioms occur to the speaker at the same time. Thus somebody referring to some sort of security breach apparently 'set the cat in the henhouse.' The mind just trips us up at times. In that sense 'we'll burn that bridge when we come to it' which intentionally combines 2 unrelated idioms is hilarious (because of the imagery) but manufactured, and unlikely to be said by accident. May 25, 2017 at 0:33

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