I'm not quite sure what to call the odd locutions I've been spotting lately. They're not exactly eggcorns, which are a type of logical spelling error based on mis-hearing ("eggcorn" for "acorn," for example). What I've been seeing--and, in one instance, hearing--are eggcornized idioms, not single words. The best term I've found to describe them is malaphor, defined in Michael Erard's excellent Um ... Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean as "two idiomatic expressions blended together, as in 'that was a breath of relief.'" Other examples include "You hit the nail right on the nose," and "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it."
And then there are these examples from my own reading and listening:
Pony up to the bar. I heard this in "Tough Room," an episode of This American Life that aired last month. In Act Two, writer Rosie Schaap tells about her teenage experience of reading Tarot cards on the Metroliner commuter train in exchange for beer. At one point she says, "I didn't dare pony up to the bar." (It's at 24:44 in the podcast.) Not "pony up at the bar": it's definitely to on the recording. Now, the standard idiom that describes what young Rosie didn't dare do is belly up to the bar, as in "crowd so close to the bar that your belly presses against it." There's even a song, "Belly Up to the Bar," in the play and movie The Unsinkable Molly Brown. (Here's a video of Debbie Reynolds and cast performing it.) Of course, pony up is also a legitimate idiom, meaning "pay up" or "fork over." Word Detective says "pony" refers to "a small amount of money," and also to anything small--specifically a "pony keg," which explains the "...to the bar" logic. The Phrase Finder, a British site, also notes that the German verb meaning to pay is poniren. In "pony up to the bar"--which, by the way, yields 12,800 Google hits--the concepts of approaching the bar and paying for drinks are conflated. It's possible that using belly as a verb strikes some people, including Rosie Schaap, as uncomfortable or improbable, and so they substitute a word that seems more logical or familiar.
MixedMaxed. Scott Schuman, the brilliant photographer of street fashion who blogs at The Sartorialist, posted a photo last month under the title "On the Street ... MixedMaxed Plaids, NYC." This may actually be an eggcorn for mismatched, although I'm not quite sure. (One commenter, Pase Rock, wrote in confusion, "is it mixed maxed? mixed matched? or mismatched? I've been trying to figure this out since I was a child. no luck yet.") There's an auditory overlap between mismatched and the fashion lingo mix and match, as in "This season, feel free to mix and match polka dots and plaids!" or "Mix and match separates to create 10 outfits from just 4 pieces!" (Can you tell I've written a lot of fashion copy?) There's something rather charming about "mixedmaxed" when it describes clashing oversize plaids, I have to admit. But its awfully hard to say--much harder than "mismatched." By the way, Google turns up 121 hits for "mixedmaxed," 45 hits for "mixedmatched" and more than 3,000 for "mixmatched." Clearly, many people have absolutely no idea of the meaning and function of the prefix mis-, nor do they recognize it when they hear it.
Glee abandon. Duncan Riley of the influential technology blog TechCrunch is partial to this malaphor, and he seems to be responsible for its modest spread. (I found 292 G-hits, only a few of which insert a comma between glee and abandon, indicating a series of nouns.) "Sucked is not a word I usually throw around with glee abandon," Mr. Riley wrote in January, after attending the Microsoft keynote address at CES, the big consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. Last September he wrote about "the period of glee abandon in which companies joined Second Life." The traditional idiom is gay abandon, adopted in an innocent era when "gay" meant "cheerful." ( Memory lane digression: I remember a wonderful newspaper comic called Rick O'Shay in which the saloon owner was a sassy gal named Gaye Abandon. All the characters had punny names: the town gambler was called Deuces Wilde, the doctor was Basil Metabolism, and Rick O'Shay's kid sidekick was Quyat Burp.) I understand that we have issues with "gay" these days, but turning it into "glee" (which admittedly has a related meaning, "jubilant delight") is pretty peculiar. "Gleeful" would work just fine, but I guess the extra syllable is just too much for Riley et al.
Has anyone else spotted malaphors in the wild? Or can you think of a better term to describe these idioms-gone-weird?