Malaprops 101 –
from Writing is Redunda-mental
A malapropism (also called a Dogberryism or Cramtonism) is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound (which is often a paronym), resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance
An instance of speech error is called a malapropism when a word which is nonsensical or ludicrous in context, but similar in sound to what was intended, is produced.
The word “malapropism” (and its earlier variant, “malaprop”) comes from a character named “Mrs. Malaprop” in Richard Brinsley Sheridan‘s 1775 play The Rivals Mrs. Malaprop frequently misspeaks (to great comic effect) by using words which don’t have the meaning she intends, but which sound similar to words that do. Sheridan presumably chose her name in humorous reference to the word malapropos, an adjective or adverb meaning “inappropriate” or “inappropriately”, derived from the French phrase, mal à propos (literally “poorly placed”). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of “malapropos” in English is from 1630, and the first person known to have used the word “malaprop” in the sense of “a speech error” is Lord Byron in 1814.
The synonymous term “Dogberryism” comes from the 1598 Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing, in which the character Dogberry utters many malapropisms to humorous effect.
Malapropisms do not occur only as comedic literary devices. They also occur as a kind of speech error in ordinary speech. Examples are often quoted in the media.
The song titles, “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Tomorrow Never Knows“, by The Beatles, both originated as “Ringoisms” — confused speech uttered by Ringo Starr. John Lennon and Paul McCartney called the two phrases “malapropisms”
It was reported in New Scientist that an office worker had described a colleague as “a vast suppository of information” (i.e., repository or depository)
Former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley referred to a tandem bicycle as a “tantrum bicycle” and made mention of “Alcoholics Unanimous” (Alcoholics Anonymous)
Modern writers make use of malapropisms in novels, cartoons, films, television, and other media.
Archie Bunker, a character in the American TV sitcom All in the Family is also known for malapropisms. He callsOrthodox Jews “off-the-docks Jews” and refers to “the Women’s Lubrication Movement” (rather than Liberation)
InMuch Ado About Nothing, Constable Dogberry tells Governor Leonato, “Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended twoauspicious persons” (i.e., apprehended two suspicious persons)
in The Merchant of Venice, Launcelot, describing Shylock, declares, “Certainly he is the very devil incarnal…” (i.e., incarnate)
Malapropism was one of Stan Laurel’s comic mannerisms. In Sons Of The Desert, for example, he says that Oliver Hardy is suffering a nervous “shakedown” (rather than “breakdown”), and calls the Exalted Ruler of their group the “exhausted ruler”
– from Writing is Redunda-mental (& Wikipedia)
See Freudian Slips from January 17 2014