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Who is Mrs. Malaprop?

By June 29, 2010

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The character Mrs. Malaprop is a humorous aunt who gets mixed up in the schemes and dreams of young lovers in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 comedy-of-manners The Rivals.

One of the funniest aspects of her character is that she often uses the incorrect word to express herself, thus coining the literary term malapropism.

Malapropism is the practice (whether by intent or by accident) of using an incorrect word that sounds similar to the appropriate word. For example, when I was a kid, I often used this malapropism: "I hope I at least win the constellation prize." (Instead of "consolation" prize.)

To make their characters look foolish, authors and playwrights sometimes utilize malapropism, and that's what Sheridan does with Mrs. Malaprop. Here are a few examples of the ol' gal as she butchers the English language:

"We will not anticipate the past, our retrospection will now be all to the future."

"The pineapple of politeness" (Instead of "pinnacle of politeness.")

"She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile" (Instead of "alligator on the banks of the Nile.")

Do you have a favorite malapropism? Leave a comment and share!

Comments

August 1, 2011 at 1:36 am
(1) Heather O'Callaghan says:

‘I saw an emancipated (emaciated) dog on the beach’
My father has his full facilities (faculties) and he’s over 90 years old’.

August 2, 2011 at 12:57 am
(2) plays says:

Thanks for playing, Heather!

February 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm
(3) Sarah says:

I’ve been looking all over the Internet for this name as part of a puzzle I’ve been working on. Here’s the clue that was given:
She’d call an illegitimate son the bastion of the family!

July 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm
(4) Gail says:

The best I ever heard was at the post office, where the clerk – after finally realizing what I needed to do and how we could accomplish that – said, “Well, next time we won’t have to go through all this rigor mortis” (when she meant rigamarole).

July 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm
(5) plays says:

That is one of the best malaprops I’ve ever heard! Thanks, Gail.

August 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm
(6) J. Paul Lennon says:

Some years ago I had a discussion board criticizing the Legion of Christ’s fundraising program and created a character like Mrs Malaprop and called her “Bene Factress” – and wrote in her character. Some readers thought this matron was a real person…

Mrs Malaprop prided herself on being a confounder of this religious order and was always very keen on defending the padres’ peekadilloes…

This particular Mrs Malaprop was studying Spanish and occasionally pronounced bilingual malaprops along the lines of the great Mexican comedian “Cantinflas”

August 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm
(7) J. Paul Lennon says:

BENE HERE AGAIN

after a long hiatsu -I want to be culturally sensitive to the Oriental people-
and forgive me for misspeling the Cardinal’s name
but I was told by a Galician friend -remember St. Pauls First Letter to the Galicians which my Jesuit friend explained to me is one of St.Paul’s greatest as it speaks about the gifts of the Spirit

September 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm
(8) Mike in Caracas says:

One of the best ever Spanglish malapropisms came from a lady who used to care for our kids when they were young. We would phone to ask how Nathalia, our baby daughter was, and would often get the reply that she was in “los brazos de amor feo” (Morpheus in Spanish is Morfeo)

September 8, 2012 at 11:48 am
(9) Frank Sanello says:

Just a few of my favorite malapropisms:

Movie mogul Sam Goldwyn introduced the British military leader of World War II at a fundraising banquet as “Field Marshal Montgomery Ward.”

“One man’s meat is another man’s poisson.”

The obseqious vicar in “Pride and Predjudice” who praises his aristocratic patron for her “condescension” of him.

The late Gore Vidal’s retort to gay activists who accused him of ignoring the gay rights movement: “Let them eat cock!”

I don’t know if this technically counts as a malapropism, but former Vice President Dan Quayle, after a return from south of the border, expressed surprise to learn that people don’t speak Latin in Latin America.

Or George W. Bush’s mangled rephrasing of the famous anti-drug TV commercial: “It’s a terrible thing to lose your mind.”

Frank Sanello

September 9, 2012 at 9:04 pm
(10) Anna says:

I used to work in recruitment advertising and copywriters would sometimes mistakenly write, “Salary commiserate with experience” instead of “commensurate”, although for most jobs the first one proves true. Of course, I also had a Seattle client who once offered as an employee bonus a “fairy pass.”

November 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm
(11) Robert says:

I worked with a guy who had four malapropisms. I can only remember two: Cylinder Block for cinder block; Card Face for poker face.

February 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm
(12) peter says:

my mother in law came running back up the beach from paddling in the Med, screeching, saying “aghhh, a jellyfish just came up and wrapped its testicles around me”.

an old friend of my father’s used to say that his dog was a wirewool terrier.

March 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm
(13) Jennifer says:

My grandfather was full of, often hysterical, malapropisims. My favorites were:
We stayed in a condom (condominium) when we went to the beach.
I’ve been getting migrating (migraine) headaches.

June 7, 2013 at 5:06 pm
(14) Sylvia says:

My sister complains about ‘exuberant prices’ instead of ‘exorbitant’.
When I asked an official on the phone if my age would be an issue, he assured me, ‘We don’t practice age recriminations.’
A woman at work who borrowed the box cutter kept in my desk, returned it with the comment, ‘That’s a legal weapon!’

June 10, 2013 at 5:21 pm
(15) Paul says:

A friend of mine said she would like to own one of those expensive watches…. a “Rolodex”.

July 15, 2013 at 8:27 pm
(16) Joekr says:

Mr. Sanello may not have meant to “malaprop”, but it was Dan Quayle who mangled the United Negro College Fund (yes, that’s what it was called) commercial which had the punch line “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”with the line (approximate, not totally accurate) wrongly attributed to George W. Bush

August 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm
(17) Rusty says:

My mother once tried to explain to the doctor, that my sister had a cut on her finger and it had some kind of orgasm (organism) in it.
Our friend once had an aunt with “old-timer’s” disease, instead of Alzheimer’s.
And my favorite, I had a friend who worked in human resources. When interviewing a young man for a job, she asked if he had any felonies. He replied, No ma’am just some “mister meaners.”

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