10 Times Idioms Were Used Incorrectly In Famous Situations

Idioms are great … until they’re not. When properly used, these sayings can pepper our speech with personality and color our conversations. While they don’t translate literally, their meaning is usually well understood—if they’re used correctly.

When idioms are misused, quite a bit can be lost in translation, leaving the audience scratching their heads (we’ve done a slideshow on that too!). A gaffe between friends is one thing, but what about when the whole world is listening?

Pretty embarrassing … or a learning moment? Either way, here are 10 times idioms were used incorrectly in famous situations.

WATCH: Can You Correct These Idioms?

Another thing coming

Even the brightest among us falls victim to idiom slips, like former President Barack Obama who slipped during a 2013 New Year’s Eve speech.

Speaking of Republicans, he said if they thought any government spending cuts wouldn’t be coming with tax increases, “then they’ve got another thing coming.” The thing is … the idiom was originally another think coming. Oops.

Fade into Bolivian

After losing to Lennox Lewis in 2002, boxing great Mike Tyson left more than one fan wondering if he was packing up and moving.

He told ESPN: “I guess I’m gonna fade into Bolivian.” The word he wanted was oblivion, but he seemed oblivious to that fact at the time.

Pie higher

Oh, the Bushisms. There are too many to count, but one of the most notable idiom gaffes from George W. Bush came at a 2000 debate in South Carolina, when he said, “We ought to make the pie higher.”

Not a commentary on local baked goods, he was likely trying for some take on the phrase pie in the sky. It was so puzzling, though, it inspired a poem titled “Make the Pie Higher!” composed entirely of Bush quotes.

Turn it around 360

So, geometry isn’t everyone’s thing. In 1994, baller Jason Kidd fouled out verbally when he vowed to turn the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball program around “360 degrees” after he was drafted.

A 360-degree turn, of course, is a full circle, which would get them … right back where they started. A 180-degree turnaround is the phrase he needed for a slam dunk.


No one wants to be a scapegoat, but what about an “escape-goat”? That’s what NBA player Karl Malone reportedly once balked at being called.

“I ain’t gonna be no escape-goat!” he said.

Nipped it in the butt

The Real Housewives of each and every city keep our jaws permanently dropped, but Teresa Giudice of the New Jersey franchise lacerates language like no other.

In one scene, she told a fellow cast member, “They shoulda just nipped it in the butt — whatever.” Ouch! The traditional idiom is to nip something in the bud, which means to stop something before it gets started … not do damage to someone’s derrière.

Extract revenge

Unlike a tooth, which a dentist may have to extract, revenge is exacted. Even the smarties at CNN have mangled that though (and they are far from alone).

When tweeting a story about fired employees, they wrote, “These employees got the boot, and went to great lengths to extract revenge.”

Worst-case Ontario

No offense to the Canadian province or California city, we’re sure, but Richard “Ricky” LaFleur of the hit show Trailer Park Boys, somehow transformed the phrase worst-case scenario into worst-case Ontario.

Among his other notorious malapropisms is the phrase get two birds stoned at once, which is a bit gentler than the traditional idiom of killing two birds with one stone.

The show must go wrong

Leave it to Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation to mangle the traditional call for persistence, the show must go on. His more pessimistic version from a 2010 episode: “There’s an old saying in show business: The show must go wrong. Everything always goes wrong, and you just have to deal with it.”

Take the fork

Most of us have to choose one way or another when we get to a fork in the road. Not legendary baseball player Yogi Berra, though. His advice: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” (The saying has been found as early as 1913, but is famously associated with Yogi.)

We will that fork, Yogi. We will.

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Word of the Day

Can you guess the definition?

joie de vivre

[ zhwaduh-vee-vruh ]

Can you guess the definition?

Word of the day
joie de vivre

[ zhwaduh-vee-vruh ]