Tag Archives: malapropism

Malaprop Monday

You could have knocked me over with a 10-foot pole.

That’s not only a real life example, but also my reaction every time I hear a really good malapropism or mixed metaphor.  For whatever reason, my life’s path has been graced by many a modern day Mrs. Malaprop who, God love her, utters well-intentioned phrases with a twisted tongue.  

We know Mrs. Malaprop as the 18th century character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play, The Rivals, who personified the habit of inadvertently swapping a word for one with a similar sound, rendering the phrase nonsensical or, more often, really funny.

Everyone knows a Mrs. (or Mr.) Malaprop.

I will never forget one walking into my office distraught; she said tests showed she had fiber-optic tumors.   I thought to myself, ooh, that must be painful.

The same woman once told of a colleague who gave a speech at a conference.  I think what she intended to say was that, after the speech, attendees flocked around him.  Instead, she said his speech was so successful the audience flogged him.

A top executive at that same company once reported that her business unit was making money hand over foot.

Recently, as I discussed this topic with my husband, he confessed to his own high profile slip.  In a division memo on Safety at Sea he reported that, during a shipboard mission, a well known oceanographer was hospitalized after having lost the majority of his hand in a winch (a device used to adjust the tension of a rope or cable).  What’s the malapropism, you ask?  My husband reported that Dr. Smith lost his hand in a wench.

Malapropisms are also associated with mixed metaphors and nothing titillates a word nymph more than a good mixed metaphor.

I once heard “Don’t burn your bridges before they’re hatched” while trying desperately not to picture a bridge being hatched.  Talk about painful.

If you have a favorite malapropism or mixed metaphor you’d like to share, I’ll be here, holding my bated breath.

Note:  Also akin to malapropisms are mondegreens, phrases that are often misheard or misunderstood.  But let’s save those for the next time we talk about (you guessed it!) song lyrics.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Reading