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


(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.

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  • A bad metaphor AKA a mixed metaphor. The original idiom is: like it or lump it. [whatever the thing happens to be]. Example of a mixed metaphor: Don't let the sleeping dogs out of the bag. Can you tell me what the two original idioms were? – Lambie May 24 '17 at 14:39
  • Mandatory xkcd: xkcd.com/739 – cobaltduck May 24 '17 at 14:40
  • @cobaltduck it is certainly mind-blowing! – English Student May 24 '17 at 14:57
  • @Lambie -- let sleeping dogs lie; and don't let the cat out of the bag, though on the whole it would be much simpler to just let the sleeping cat lie -- it is proof of the astounding flexibility of the English language, of which we must all feel proud! – English Student May 24 '17 at 14:58
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    @English Student You are either young or mono-lingual. Any metaphor, or in this case, truism or aphorism, can be mixed like that in any language. English is in no way unique in this regard. Images are a basic feature of all natural languages. – Lambie May 24 '17 at 16:45

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!

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  • @Tonepoet many thanks for suggesting these corrections! – English Student May 24 '17 at 15:46
  • @Tonepoet mant thanks for also improving the answer by your beneficial editing. – English Student May 24 '17 at 22:11
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    My favorite: President Lyndon Johnson was once quoted in Time magazine: "Don't throw the baby out with the dishes." – Xanne May 25 '17 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. – English Student May 25 '17 at 0:33

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