Posted by: Jack Henry | May 15, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Malapropisms

“A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.”

Rather than explain this and do the research for this article, I’m providing you with Richard Lederer’s article on the topic, from the San Diego Union-Tribune, back in 2015. For the full article, you can click the link. Enjoy!

When people misuse words in an illiterate but humorous manner, we call the result a malapropism. The word echoes the name of Mrs. Malaprop (from the French mal a propos, “not appropriate”), a character who first strode the stage in 1775, 240 years ago, in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comedy “The Rivals.” Mrs. Malaprop was a garrulous “old weather-beaten she dragon” who took special pride in her use of the King’s English but who, all the same, unfailingly mangled big words: “Sure, if I reprehend anything in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!” She meant, of course, that if she comprehended anything, it was a nice arrangement of epithets.

From “The Rivals,” here are some more of Mrs. M’s most malapropriate malapropisms:

· Then, sir, she should have a supercilious knowledge in account; — and as she grew up, I should have her instructed in geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries.

· She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.

· Illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.

· He’s the very pineapple of politeness.

The giddy ghost of Mrs. Malaprop continues to haunt the hallowed halls of language. Here are some authentic, certified, unretouched modern-day malapropisms. As Dave Barry, my fellow Haverford College alumnus would say, I’m not making these up:

· If you wish to submit a recipe for publication in the cookbook, please include a short antidote concerning it.

· I don’t want to cast asparagus at my opponent.

· The fun and excitement of childhood are nothing compared to the fun and excitement of adultery.

· Senators are chosen as committee chairmen on the basis of senility.

· I refuse to answer that question. It’s too suppository.

And a few more from the Farmer’s Almanac:

· A colleague of ours once noted that she preferred “decapitated coffee.”

· Hospital “sightings” have included “old timer’s disease,” “prostrate cancer,” “chickenpops,” “smiling mighty Jesus” (for spinal meningitis), and “65 roses” (for cystic fibrosis).

· A longtime Navy man was once reported to have died from “sea roaches of the liver.”

· One woman told us that she was going through “mental pause,” before adding that her husband had quit smoking, “cold duck.”

I hope you have enjoyed the word nerd jokes and explanations over the past few weeks. Now back to our normal programming!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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