Posted by: Jack Henry | March 30, 2015

Editor’s Corner: As promised, malapropisms

So, a few of you asked what the difference between an eggcorn and a malapropism is. Here’s a quick answer from Wikipedia:

In linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker’s dialect (sometimes called oronyms). The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original, but plausible in the same context, such as "old-timers’ disease" for "Alzheimer’s disease". This is as opposed to a malapropism, where the substitution creates a nonsensical phrase. Classical malapropisms generally derive their comic effect from the fault of the user, while eggcorns are errors that exhibit creativity or logic. Eggcorns often involve replacing an unfamiliar, archaic, or obscure word with a more common or modern word ("baited breath" for "bated breath").

For those of you who want a quicker answer, here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition:

malapropism: a usually humorous misapplication of a word or phrase; specifically : a blundering use of a word that sounds somewhat like the one intended but is ludicrously wrong in the context

Martin Toseland, the author of The Ants Are My Friends (and the supplier of last week’s eggcorn definition), defines malapropisms as a term “provoked when a character or person is under pressure and the words they utter reveal what they think as opposed to what they meant to say.” So they know the correct word, but make a sort of Freudian slip and reveal their feelings.

The following are a few malapropisms from his book:

· I don’t want to cast asparagus at my opponents. (aspersions)

· Waste of time. They’re all a load of belladonnas. (prima donnas)

· (From Dan Quayle) “Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.” (the bond)

· It’s a proven fact that Capital Punishment is a detergent for crime. (deterrent)

· Don’t ever wear yellow, dear. It makes your skin look shallow and emancipated. (emaciated)

Here are some other articles I’ve written on the two topics over the last few years:

· Malapropisms




Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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