2017-09-01 / Features

Mrs. Malaprop’s ‘mis’aprops

Ever find yourself holding forth, conscious that your audience is hanging on every word you say, only to have your brain go a little fuzzy on you, so that what comes out of your mouth is not precisely what should have been supplied by the brain in that highly intelligent skull of yours? If so, you might be guilty of a malapropism.

The term that describes this phenomenon springs from a literary work that is more than 200 years old, “The Rivals,” by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. A chortle-inducing character in it, Mrs. Malaprop was able to muddy the King’s English with the best of them.

In his book “Fractured English,” Richard Lederer gives some hilarious examples of the spoken word that were so close to being right, it sometimes took hearers a moment or two to figure out precisely what was wrong with what they had just taken in.

For instance:

. “In Venice, the people travel around the canals on gargonzolas.”

Cheesy, huh? On the other hand, perhaps folks there really do throw huge containers of the blue-veined dairy food into the canals and then jump in and hold on for dear life. Going down with that unusual “ship” would, at the very least, be a tasty affair.

. “The two sides in a court trial are the defense and the prostitution.”

Come on, now, you have to admit, that’s funny. Especially if you are a desensed lawyer.

. “I haven’t seen him in over a year. I hear he went to one of those ivory league colleges.”

And he may very well have done just that. Quite a few college students these days appear to be trying to build their very own ivory towers on the campuses of higher learning so they won’t be troubled

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