Day 7: Create a Combidiom

Day seven, day shmevin (can you tell I’m already beginning to regret the whole rhyming motif here?), and today we’re making shit up.

Which, to be fair, is what we do every day, but this is a special kind of creation. Today we’re makin’ MALAPHORS.

Nope, not a misspelled metaphor. A malaphor. A combination of idioms. A ‘combidiom’, if you will.

Essentially, we’re taking two well-known phrases and smooshing ‘em together.

For example: We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.

The best kind of linguistic ridiculousness. But combidioms/malaphors also happen to make great story titles and prompts because they tend to put two things into conflict, and the basis of every good story is opposition.

So, to break it down:

We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it is a combidiom of: we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it and you’ve burned all your bridges.

One is about the future and the other is about the past.

Perfect opposition. And an intriguing concept for a story… 

What do the two idioms conjure up for you? Perhaps you’re imagining a real bridge on fire. Or a character who sabotages all their future opportunities. Or a metaphorical bridge between the past and the future.

Gif of a woman holding a hammer in front of a bridge. She says: "build a bridge and get over it."

Try making your own combidiom or pick your own from the examples below 

Combine two (or more!) of the following:

  • People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones 
  • A bird in the hand is worth twice in the bush
  • It isn’t rocket science 
  • Speak of the devil and he shall appear 
  • Until the cows come home
  • Count your blessings
  • Does a bear shit in the woods? 
  • Does the Pope wear a funny hat? 
  • You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
  • Not the sharpest knife in the drawer
  • You’ve opened a can of worms
  • I can read you like a book
  • Don’t beat around the bush
  • Not enough room to swing a cat
  • You’ve made your bed, now lie in it
  • Until hell freezes over
  • The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
  • Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
  • That ship has sailed
  • You’ve got a bee in your bonnet
  • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
  • I know it like the back of my hand

Mix ‘n’ match ’em however you like, for example 

People in glass houses shouldn’t speak of the devil


Don’t count your blessings until they’ve sailed


You’ve opened this can of worms, now lie in it


Until the cows freeze over

Oh gosh we could do this all day. But we won’t. Because it’s your turn. Take a few minutes to play with some combinations and then set at timer for 20 minutes and see what happens! 

Don’t think too hard about it! This is meant to be a quick and potentially silly exercise to get your storybrain firing, that’s all. If you get stuck, no worries, just pick another one and carry on. 

And when you’re done, come and regale us with your malaphors and combidioms in the forum because if there’s one thing we love at WHQ it’s ridiculous mutated linguistics. 

Animated gif of a pencil writing: "mark my words" with words deliberately spelled wrong.

Happy writing!

We’ll see you again tomorrow for Day 8 (don’t be late)!

Useful Stuff & Things:

For a similarly silly exercise based on twisting and inverting old familiar cliches and tropes, try this one on for size: Let’s Get Subversive

Or, if you need an extra boost of inspiration for this exercise, try using your combidiom as the title for this exercise from Seven Ideas in Seven Days: Fantasy Book Covers

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