A good deal of that pleasure probably is the result of the fact that I find Sheridan’s clever use of language delightful, and he uses many variations of it. One of his best forms, I think, is the malapropism, named for Mrs. Malaprop, a character in this play. The malapropism is a form of humor in which the speaker substitutes a word which sounds similar to the desired one for the correct (intended) one. As in Mrs. Malaprop’s attempt to quote Hamlet, which comes out as: “Hesperion curls -- the front of Job himself! -- An eye, like March to threaten at command! -- A station like Harry Mercury ….” I hope you see what I mean.
Anyway, the news is mostly political (which I try to avoid, usually with at least some success) and upsetting, so I was looking for something to post about. I have a piece in development about a couple of books I read recently, but it’s not yet together in my head. I didn’t want to fall back on more lexophiles and paraprosdokians so soon (maybe at some later point), so I decided that malapropisms might be fun. This led to some thinking and a bit of on-line research which revealed that Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing uses a number of “dogberryisms,” which seem to be malapropisms before the appearance of Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals. I also discovered that there are lots of malapropisms out there from a variety of sources.
Here are some examples which I enjoyed:
From Mrs. Malaprop inThe Rivals(what I would call “official” malapropisms):
...promise to forget this fellow - to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.
He is the very pine-apple of politeness!
I have since laid Sir Anthony's preposition before her;
Oh! it gives me the hydrostatics to such a degree.
I hope you will represent her to the captain as an object not altogether illegible.
...she might reprehend the true meaning of what she is saying.
...she's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.
(This may be my favorite of all of the “true” malapropisms)
From other known (named) people:
Your ambition - is that right - is to abseil across the English Channel? Cilla Black
Listen to the blabbing brook. Norm Crosby
This is unparalyzed in the state's history. Gib Lewis, Texas Speaker of the House
She's really tough; she's remorseful. David Moorcroft
Cardial - as in cardial arrest. Eve Pollard
We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile. George W. Bush
The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder. Richard Daley, former Chicago mayor
Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child. Dan Quayle, Vice President
From unnamed sources:
The amount of education you have determines your loot in life.
Arabs wear turbines on their heads.
The bowels are a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y.
Damp weather is very hard on the sciences.
The doctor felt the man's purse and said there was no hope.
Female moths are called myths.
The first thing they do when a baby is born is to cut its biblical chord.
The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city.
Flying saucers are just an optical conclusion.
Growing up the trellis were pink and yellow concubines.
Having one wife is called monotony.
From Student Bloopers: (some of these COULD just be typos, but they’re also malapropisms)
The Indian squabscarried porpoise son their back.
In medieval times most of the people were alliterate.
In one of Shakespeare's famous plays, Hamlet rations out his situation by relieving himself in a long soliloquy.
In the first book of the Bible, Guinesses, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree.
In the Olympic Games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits and threw the java.
King Alfred conquered the Dames.
King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery.
King Harold musterded his troops before the Battle of Hastings.
Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis.
The mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intollerable.
One of Jacob's sons, Joseph gave refuse to the Israelites.
Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.
Solomon, one of David's sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines.
Under the Constitution the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.
(Note: I actually had a student give me a speech outline [I was teaching public speaking 101 at the time] supporting the Second Amendment “… right to bare arms….”)
They lived in the Sarah Desert and traveled by Camelot.
From Kids Say the Darndest Things:
In the middle of the 18th century, all the morons moved to Utah.
A scout obeys all to whom obedience is due and respects all duly constipated authorities.
Syntax is all the money collected at the church from sinners.
I hope these bring some pleasure into some lives. There is so much going on these days which I find very distressing. I suspect that’s true of others, as well. Maybe I’ll be able to get myself together a bit better in the next couple of weeks and I’ll return to some of my more normal ramblings. We’ll see…