Congruent Conflations in a Thumbnail

I’ve been going ape-wild for congruent conflations lately and for good reason: they’re the most fun I’ve had with wordplay for a long time and I find they ring off the tongue nicely. Hopefully you’ll cut me a bone if I indulge a little more, as with just a couple more examples you will no-doubt be able to put the dots together.

Oh, OK, I won’t skirt around the bush any longer; it’s time to let the bean out of the bag with the help of’s introduction to congruent and incongruent conflations (and the accompanying lists thereof):

Simply put, a conflation is an amalgamation of two different expressions. In most cases, the combination results in a new expression that makes little sense literally, but clearly expresses an idea because it references well-known idioms. All conflations fit into one of two major categories: Congruent ConflationsIncongruent Conflations. Congruent Conflations are the more ideal (and more sought-after) examples of the concept. These occur when the two root expressions basically reflect the same thought. For example, “Look who’s calling the kettle black” can be formed using the root expressions “Look who’s talking” & “The pot is calling the kettle black.” These root expressions really mean the same thing—they are both a friendly way to point out hypocritical behaviour. Of course, without reference to a pot (which is just as black as a kettle), “Look who’s calling the kettle black” does not directly imply anything. Yet the implication is almost automatically understood because the conflation clearly refers to two known idioms.

Incongruent Conflation occurs when the root expressions do not mean the same thing, but share a common word or theme.

Congruent example: “Know-it-pants” from the root expressions “Know-it-all” and “Smarty-pants“.

Incongruent example: “A wild herring” from the root expressions “A wild goose chase” and “A red herring“.

via @siibo



2 responses to “Congruent Conflations in a Thumbnail”

  1. Stuart Buck

    Just don’t burn the water under the bridge.

  2. Nice one, Stuart.

    I would love to come up with some more examples, but I exhausted my mental muscles writing the seven in the title and introductory paragraphs!