Malapropisms, Part 1

(Mrs. Malaprop and her Malapropisms)

Malapropism is defined as a ridiculous misuse of words

The forms malaprop and malapropism are an allusion to Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775), noted for her ridiculous misuse of words.

Sheridan coined her name with a back formation from malapropos which means "in an inappropriate or awkward manner and at the wrong time or place".

The term was borrowed from French mal à propos, “badly for the purpose, inappropriate” (mal “badly”; à propos, “appropriately, to the purpose”).

Here are a few of the original malapropisms from the lady herself, Mrs. Malaprop:

  • “. . . promise to forget this fellow—to illiterate [obliterate] him, I say, quite from your memory.”
  • “O, he will dissolve [resolve] my mystery!”
  • “He is the very pine-apple [pinnacle] of politeness!”
  • “ have since laid Sir Anthony’s preposition [proposition] before her;”
  • “Oh! it gives me the hydrostatics [hysterics] to such a degree.”
  • “ hope you will represent her to the captain as an object not altogether illegible [eligible] .”
  • “ . . . she might reprehend [comprehend] the true meaning of what she is saying.”
  • “ . . . she’s as headstrong as an allegory [alligator] on the banks of Nile.”
  • “ am sorry to say, Sir Anthony, that my affluence [influence] over my niece is very small.”
  • “Why, murder’s the matter! slaughter’s the matter! killing’s the matter!—but he can tell you the perpendiculars [particulars] .”
  • “Nay, no delusions [allusions] to the past—Lydia is convinced;”
  • “ . . .behold, this very day, I have interceded [intercepted] another letter from the fellow;”
  • “ thought she had persisted [desisted] from corresponding with him;”
  • “His physiognomy [phraseology] so grammatical!”
  • “ am sure I have done everything in my power since I exploded [exposed] the affair;”
  • “ am sorry to say, she seems resolved to decline every particle [article] that I enjoin her.”
  • “ . . . if ever you betray what you are entrusted with . . . you forfeit my malevolence [benevolence] for ever . . . ."
  • “Your being Sir Anthony’s son, captain, would itself be a sufficient accommodation [recommendation];”
  • “Sure, if I reprehend [apprehend] any thing in this world it is the use of my oracular [vernacular] tongue, and a nice derangement [arrangement] of epitaphs [epithets] !”
  • Malapropisms uttered by other people

  • “It is beyond my apprehension.”
  • —Danny Ozark, baseball team manager

  • “Listen to the blabbing brook.”
  • —Norm Crosby

  • “This is unparalyzed in the state’s history.”
  • —Gib Lewis, Texas Speaker of the House

  • “She’s really tough; she’s remorseful.”
  • —David Moorcroft

  • “And then he [Mike Tyson] will have only channel vision.”
  • —Frank Bruno, boxer

  • “Cardial—as in cardial arrest.”
  • —Eve Pollard

  • “Marie Scott . . . has really plummeted to the top.”
  • —Alan Weeks

  • “He’s going up and down like a metronome.”
  • —Ron Pickering

  • “He’s on 90... 10 away from that mythical figure.”
  • —Trevor Bailey, cricket commentator

  • “Unless somebody can pull a miracle out of the fire, Somerset are cruising into the semi-final.”
  • —Fred Trueman

  • “We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile.”
  • —George W. Bush

  • “The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here to preserve disorder.”
  • —Richard Daley, former Chicago mayor

  • “He was a man of great statue.”
  • —Thomas Menino, Boston mayor

  • “Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.”
  • —Dan Quayle, Vice President

  • “Well, that was a cliff-dweller.”
  • —Wes Westrum, about a close baseball game

  • “If Gower had stopped that [cricket ball] he would have decapitated his hand.”
  • —Farokh Engineer

  • “We seem to have unleased a hornet’s nest.”
  • —Valerie Singleton

  • “This series has been swings and pendulums all the way through.”
  • —Trevor Bailey, cricket commentator

  • “Be sure and put some of those neutrons on it.”
  • —Mike Smith, ordering a salad at a restaurant

  • “It’s got lots of installation.”
  • —Mike Smith, describing his new coat

The Bushisms

“George W. Bush is particularly famous for his malapropisms, and not without good reason. So it is not surprising to learn that malapropisms (and other similar verbal slips) are often known by the name Bushisms in the USA. Here’s a selection of George W. Bushisms:

  • “Oftentimes, we live in a processed world, you know, people focus on the process and not results.”
  • “The law I sign today directs new funds... to the task of collecting vital intelligence... on weapons of mass production.”
  • “It will take time to restore chaos and order.”
  • “They have miscalculated me as a leader.”
  • “Natural gas is hemispheric... because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods.”
  • “I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well.”
  • “We need an energy bill that encourages consumption.”
  • “We are making steadfast progress.”

Here are a few malapropisms that have been gathered from around the Internet:

  • Flying saucers are just an optical conclusion.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moths.
  • Let’s get down to brass roots.
  • Their father was some kind of civil serpent.
  • You can lead a horse to manure but you can’t make him drink.
  • The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city.

You may go to Malapropisms, Part 2 for additional infomrmation.