Tag Archives: Mrs. Malaprop

Save the subplot

Among the season’s sitcoms debuting recently is one I will keep my eye on with high hope.

You already know how I feel about sitcoms—that good ones are a dying breed, and the best ones can provide enough laughter therapy to last through the week.

I can’t say just yet that Mad Love will fulfill my therapeutic requirement, but I do know there’s a gleam of potential. The premise isn’t anything special. However, in addition to a strong lead cast and some mildly decent writing, the creators have also written in a character who is prone to mutilating common words and expressions. What’s especially funny is that her gaffes are corrected boldly by the one character who seems least likely to know enough to do so.

Dim-witted characters aren’t uncommon sitcom material. However, I can’t readily recall any having this particular trait. There are so many ways the writers could go with Erin. They could shape her into a modern day Mrs. Malaprop, which would be hilarious. Haven’t we all worked with one person who just couldn’t seem to get straight a simple figure of speech? I’m tempted to send in a few real-life ideas.

The problem is, it looks as though Erin’s character could be short-lived, as she was dumped by her boyfriend, one of the main characters, in the first episode. I can only hope they at least remain colleagues at the law firm in which the story takes place.

It seems that Chicago Sun-Times TV critic Paige Wiser agrees with me. In fact, her review took the words right out of my mouth: “The other bright spot is Ben’s ex-girlfriend Erin, played by Alexandra Breckenridge. She’s given to mangled expressions like “taken for granite” and “an escape goat,” and I hope to God that Ben’s new relationship doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of her. Come back, Erin. Please.”

Erin’s calling a fabric swatch a “snatch” was just a tease.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Movies, Television and Radio

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