Writing for Business

Feb 6 2013   8:10PM GMT

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)


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