Wednesday, 24 September 2008


A malapropism is the use of an incorrect word in place of a similarly sounding correct word. The name comes from the character Mrs. Malaprop, from The Rivals, a comedic play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The character has numerous lines that illustrate the blunder that would become her namesake. Here is some of her dialogue:

  • "She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile."
  • "He is the very pineapple of politeness."
  • "Illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory."
  • "If I reprehend any thing in this world, it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!"
  • "She would have a supercilious knowledge in accounts, and, as she grew up, I would have her instructed in geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries. This . . . is what I would have a woman know; and I don't think there is a superstitious article in it."

The above malapropisms, of course, were engineered for comic effect, but inadvertent malapropisms can be just as humorous. These were taken from college essays:

  • "Parents try to install these virtues in their children."
  • "He became affluent in French, Italian, Latin, and Greek."
  • "My parents are alike and indifferent to each other."
  • "I like to play records on my pornograph."

Here's one taken from an article written by a college freshman:

  • "Freshmen who inhibit the dorms see next semester as their chance to...."

A special type of malapropism is only unmasked in writing. It involves confusing one homonym with another. Consider the following:

  • "The extra money is worth spending to keep my piece of mind."
  • "The rooms downstairs were too cold for me to bare."


No comments: