Recently, I met two men whom I have named “The Brothers Malaprop.”
These two are continually recounting stories that happened to a friend of theirs from back in Mississippi. The friend has made lot of money, even though he is not well educated. The stories are all about this friend’s “habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound.” In case you did not know, that is the definition of the word “Malapropism” (mal-a-prop-ism). (Special thanks to Melissa Donovan for pointing me to the correct word.)
The word is derived from the French phrase mal à propos (literally “ill-suited”). The Wikipedia states, “The terms malapropism and the earlier variant malaprop come from Richard Brinsley Sheridan‘s 1775 play The Rivals, and in particular the character Mrs. Malaprop. Sheridan presumably named his character Mrs. Malaprop, who frequently misspoke (to great comic effect), in joking reference to the word malapropos.”
I have enjoyed these humorous phrases for years but I never could find the word that described them. Now I have found the word and I want to USE it!
So, here is a quick list of some of my favorite malapropisms. Some are from my memory, others from the web. All are hilarious! (Add your favorite in the comments.)
- Yogi Berra‘s statement: “Texas has a lot of electrical votes.” The malapropism is the use of “electrical” instead of the correct word, “electoral,” which is similar in sound.
The following stuff was selected and copied from the Wikipedia article on malapropisms
Malapropisms by characters in films & television:
- Archie Bunker from the American TV sitcom All in the Family was known for malapropisms of words and names:
- “The hookeries and massageries…the whole world is turning into a regular Sodom and Glocca Morra.” (i.e., Gomorrah)
- “Off-the-docks Jews” (i.e., Orthodox Jews)
- “A woman doctor is only good for women’s problems…like your groinocology.” (i.e., Gynaecology)
- “I ain’t a man of carnival instinctuals like you.” (i.e., carnal instincts)
- “All girls go cockeyed during pooberescency.” (i.e., puberty)
- “A Menstrual show” (i.e., minstrel)
- “Irene Lorenzo, Queen of the Women’s Lubrication Movement.” (i.e., Liberation)
- “Buy of them battery operated transvestite radios.” (i.e., transistor)
- “In her elastic stockings, next to her very close veins.” (i.e., varicose)
- “George Meaney, head of the UFO-CIA.” (i.e., AFL-CIO)
- “The first priorority is that I’m the sick one” (i.e., priority)
- “To my dear daughter Gloria Bunker, whom I forgive for marrying the Meathead, I leave my living room chair as a centralpiece in her someday living room” (i.e.,centerpiece)
- “Last will and tentacle…” (i.e., testament)
- “Patience is a virgin.” (i.e., virtue)
- “A Polack art exhibit!” (i.e., Jackson Pollock).
- “As youse people say, Sh-boom.” (i.e., shalom)
- A “Kuzeeknee” instead of ‘Zucchini’
- Stan Laurel often used malapropisms in the Laurel and Hardy films:
- “We heard the ocean is infatuated with sharks” (i.e., infested, although Ollie erroneously corrects him as meaning infuriated) – The Live Ghost.
- “What a terrible cat’s after me!” (i.e., catastrophe) – Any Old Port!
- “We’d like a room with a southern explosion” (i.e., exposure) – Any Old Port!
- “The doctor said I might get hydrophosphates” (i.e., hydrophobia) – Helpmates
- “We floundered in a typhoid” (i.e., typhoon) – Sons of the Desert
- “We’re like two peas in a pot” (i.e., pod) – Sons of the Desert
Malapropisms by real people
- Malapropisms are often quoted in the media:
- Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley: “Let’s get this straight. The police don’t cause disorder. The police are here to preserve disorder.”
- It was reported in New Scientist that an office worker described a colleague as “a vast suppository of information”. (i.e., repository) The worker then apologised for his “Miss-Marple-ism”. (i.e. malapropism) New Scientist reported it as possibly the first time malapropism has been turned into a malapropism.
—– These are just some miscellaneous cuties that I have found:
- When she heard our Gloucester house was haunted, she uttered the immortal line, ‘You’ll have to get the vicar in to circumcise [instead of exorcise] it—J. Cooper, 1991.
- “No, a moo point. Yeah, it’s like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.” (i.e., moot) Joey Tribbiani on NBC‘s Friends
- “He is the very pineapple of politeness!” (i.e., pinnacle)
My Personal Favorites:
A past coworker used to say (intentionally), “He has extinguished himself by his failure to not make mistakes.”
Another co-worker (in the military) would suggest that we could reduce our personnel by “nutrition”. I guess he wanted to starve them to death! 😉 The word he obviously meant to use was “attrition”.
A friend recently reminded me that many people use the word “pacific” when they actually mean “specific.” Such as, “can you be more Pacific?”
By the way, I hope that we will hear more from the Brothers Malprop in the near future. My suggestion was that they start doing a weekly video on YouTube. Can you say, vitaral video?
Do you have a favorite “Miss-Marple-ism”? Leave it in a comment below.