Have you ever made these hilarious mistakes?

Written by Supernova

Nov 28, 2022

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!

Last will and tentacle
Last will and tentacle
(last will and testament)

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
You could have knocked me over with a fender
You could have knocked me over with a fender
(knock me over with a feather)

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.

See the warrior in my eye
See the warrior in my eye (worry in the eye)


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.

Everyone in the company has their own cuticle
Everyone in the company has their own cuticle (their own cubicle)
Supernova Volume 9.3 Issue

This article first appeared in Supernova Volume 9.3
Words by Su-Mia Hoffmann
Illustrations by Alexandra Botha-Green

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