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.

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