Malapropisms – is it an optical conclusion?
Has your mom ever told you to clean your room because it looks like a pig’s eye? Or have you heard someone say they are allergic to crabs and other crushed Asians?
Not? Well, that’s because these phrases are absolute nonsense! These blunders are called malapropisms. Malapropisms are when a word is used incorrectly in place of a similar-sounding word. The results are often very funny!
What is a Malapropism
The term comes from the character ‘Mrs Malaprop’ in the 1755 comedy The Rivals by Richard Brinsley. She would often use the incorrect words and make everyone laugh with her confusing expressions. Her name comes from the French word “malapropos”, which, appropriately, means “inappropriate”. Some examples from Mrs Malaprop:
- The pineapple of politeness – the pinnacle of politeness
- An allegory on the banks of the Nile – an alligator on the banks of the Nile
Why do malapropisms happen?
A possible reason is that people understand language based on how we interpret the language of others rather than based on a set of rules. Sometimes our interpretation is wrong, and this leads to humorous slip-ups.
Richard Brinsley isn’t the only famous author that used malapropisms to entertain their audience. Shakespeare’s work often features malapropisms such as: Indicted to dinner – invited to dinner Comprehended auspicious persons – apprehended suspicious persons. The character “Constable Dogberry” in Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing actually made so many of these errors that “Dogberrysm” is a synonym for malapropism.