Malapropism — the wrong word

August 1st, 2019

___ A Malapropism, pronounced [mah-luh-PRAH-pih-zum], is the misuse of a word, especially by instead using a word that sounds similar.

“Malapropism” derives from a character named ‘Mrs. Malaprop’ in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals. When she speaks, Mrs. Malaprop frequently misapplies words for the meanings she intends. For example, she says, ‘He is the very ‘pineapple’ of politeness!’ (instead of ‘pinnacle’); and ” if I ‘reprehend’ anything in this world ….” (instead of ‘apprehend.’) She continues to misspeak in such a manner throughout the play; bringing a comical effect.

Jacquee T. 'Love for Words'The playwright, Mr. Brinsley, is said to have named this character per the French phrase  mal à propos, which means “poorly placed,” or “ill-suited.”

A more modern day example of “malapropism”: Archie Bunker from the television show All in the Family commits many malapropisms. Examples: “My ‘sediments’ exactly,” instead of ‘sentiments,’ and “Patience is a virgin,” instead of  “Patience is a virtue.”

A person who speaks a “malapropism” oft is one attempting to exercise a good vocabulary, and ends up unwittingly embarrassing themselves. Or at least, giving a chuckle to the folks around them.

Have you ever witnessed someone speaking a malapropism?



This Jacquée T. Writer in Residence Word of the Day is brought to you by supporting sponsors including Embroidery Plus custom embroidery and screen printing in Topeka, Kansas.

*** Jacquée T. selects and schedules each featured Word in the spirit of writing, reading, and of improved expression. Love for Words sponsors support her schedule and selection as a whole, and the and fun spirit of this series. Please check out the links to sponsor websites, one link provided per word, and see how they may add pizzazz to your day.

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