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February 20, 2013  10:26 PM

Metaphors, malaphors and Yogi Berra

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Malaphor is not a word yet but it’s a useful term that may yet get there. The term itself is a portmanteau — a word combined from parts of two other words — of malapropism and metaphor. Lawrence Harrison coined malaphor, back in August of 1976, in a Op Ed piece in the Washington Post. Harrison’s article isn’t readily available so I’m not sure exactly what he said, but most people writing about malaphors define the term as a mixed metaphor as, for example, “let’s burn that bridge when we come to it” combines “don’t burn your bridges” with “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.” It seems to me that we already have “mixed metaphor” to describe that kind of mashup, but if we define a malaphor as a screwed-up metaphor, then a mixed metaphor would just be one type.

A malapropism is the use of a mistaken word that bears some resemblance to the correct one, usually to comic effect. A malapropism is not quite an eggcorn, which is a wrong word that sounds the same or almost the same as the word it replaces). It comes from Richard Sheridan’s 1775 play, “The Rivals,” in which a character, Mrs. Malaprop,  is prone to fairly hilarious errors, like saying someone is “the very pineapple of politeness”  or “as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.” As @Guy_in_PEI pointed out, Sheridan named the character for the French phrase mal à propos, meaning inappropriate. We’ve since adopted the term as one word, malapropos (as we have its opposite, apropos).

Metaphor is the use of words or phrases to suggest something else, for a more vivid effect. Here’s an example: The moon was a ghostly galleon. The moon was not actually a ghostly galleon, of course, but that phrase conjures a poetic image much better than “the moon appeared to be large and was somewhat obscured by clouds.”

There’s lots of good fun to be had from mixing metaphors but I find myself thinking about Yogi Berra and some of his deathless quotations, like “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.” I can’t think that we should exclude Berra from the ranks of malaphor creators, just because he managed to get as much fun out of a single metaphor as most people can with two. In fact, many of his remarks weren’t even based on a metaphor, so they wouldn’t qualify as malaphors anyway. Maybe we need a different word to refer to them.

The Malaphor King collects prime examples of malaphors.

Follow me on Twitter@tao_of_grammar

February 19, 2013  12:50 PM

The difference between “aw” and “awe”

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

I liked the photo of my friend’s new puppy and commented “____, what a cutie! But why did you name him Puddles?”
a. Aw
b. Awe

Continued »


February 15, 2013  5:01 PM

illeism, nosism and other affectations

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
If you are prone to nosism, what do you have a tendency to do?
a. Intentionally disobey grammar rules
b. Look down on people with poor grammar
c. Speak of yourself as plural
d. Speak of yourself in the third person
e. Supply vague answers to questions

Continued »


February 13, 2013  2:01 PM

Is the expression “one and the same” or “one in the same”?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

Microsoft’s approach with Windows 8 is that tablets and PCs are ____________: same interface, same apps, same touch-screen capabilities.

a. one and the same
b. one in the same

Continued »


February 11, 2013  1:03 PM

Is Times New Roman a font or a fount? It depends.

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

A _____ is a set of printable or displayable text characters in a specific style and size.
a. fount
b. font

Continued »


February 7, 2013  5:25 PM

Font of wisdom or fount of wisdom?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Once upon a time, the CIO was considered the ____ of all wisdom, at least in terms of technology.
a. fount
b. font

Continued »


February 6, 2013  8:10 PM

What’s a malapropism?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

A malapropism is the use of a mistaken word that bears some resemblance to the correct one, usually to comic effect.  Not quite as similar to the correct word as an eggcorn, which is a wrong word that sounds the same or almost the same as the word it replaces, a malapropism usually has the same first letter as the intended word, and often the same first syllable, but is not really related.

Malapropism comes from Richard Sheridan’s 1775 play, “The Rivals,” in which a character, Mrs. Malaprop,  is prone to fairly hilarious errors, like saying someone is “the very pineapple of politeness”  or “as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”

Richard Nordquist lists these fine examples of malapropisms among his collection:

“Why not? Play captains against each other, create a little dysentery in the ranks.”
(Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos)

“However, they delineate–quotas, I think, vulcanize society.” (George W. Bush)

“There’s no stigmata connected with going to a shrink.” (Little Carmine in The Sopranos)

***

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar


February 5, 2013  5:28 PM

What does “illeism” mean?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
If you are prone to illeism, what do you have a tendency to do?
a. Intentionally disobey grammar rules
b. Speak of yourself in the third person
c. Supply vague answers to questions

Continued »


February 5, 2013  12:30 PM

Bona fide vs. bonified: Surprise! “Bonified” is a word .

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Amid all the vendor hype, it’s hard to understand the ________ benefits of cloud computing.
a. bona fide
b. bonified

Continued »


February 1, 2013  1:43 PM

appropriate vs. expropriate

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
I just have one question, before we adjourn: Who ____________ the X-Box from the lounge?
a. appropriated
b. expropriated

Continued »


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