Today I watched a video clip of ABC news Britney Spears father is no longer part of her conservatorship. At about the 47th second, the spokesman (or maybe he is the attorney) says the following:

Britney Spears has been faced with a decade-long nightmare, a cough gas nightmare, orchestrated by his her father and others.

I don't understand the metaphor of "cough gas" here. I know the point is that what she has experienced is a nightmare. But what information does "cough gas" add to it or what feeling does "cough gas" suggest?

I search "cough gas" and "cough gas nightmare" on Google but most of the results are medical-related.

  • Don't we typically just delete questions that are, simply, mishearings?
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 13:03

1 Answer 1


The attorney is not speaking very clearly, but he is saying "a Kafka-esque nightmare." The "ka" syllable is almost lost, but you can hear it if you know to listen for it.

Kafkaesque, adjective

  1. Marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity.
  2. Marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger.
  3. In the manner of something written by Franz Kafka.

The meaning is somewhere between the first and second definitions, or a combination of both of them.

  • This word makes total sense in the context! I have never learned it before.
    – yaobin
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 13:42
  • 13
    @yaobin, here is another word you may find interesting: "cough-gas nightmare" is an example of a mondegreen.
    – randomhead
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 17:01
  • @yaobin, the most well known example of why this is word is used is from Kafka's novella Metamorphosis, where the protagonist wakes up as a giant cockroach and has to deal with his family turning on him because of his repulsive nature. It's a horrifying, surreal nightmare. Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 13:21

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