Malaprops are incorrect words (or non-words) that sound similar to the intended word, often to humorous effect. They are named after a certain Mrs. Malaprop, a character in a Dickens novel (but I read recently she’s in something by Richard Brinsley Sheridan written in the late 1700’s. I’m too lazy to research it.) Here’s a more up-to-date example of this linguistic comedy:
Malaprop, referring to the humorous error, is called a malapropism by some, and this leads me to mention a more insidious error, one that occurs too often among educated folks, (who are more likely to read this blog than people who make malaprops). The error I refer to is pretentiousism. Pretentiousisms are grammatically correct words that are longer, harder to understand, or more obscure than plain, clear writing or speaking. I’ve mentioned pretentiousism in the past; you can search this blog for it.
Don’t add unnecessary syllables or Latinisms to your writing. Don’t say “utilize” when “use” will do. Don’t say “obfuscate” when “confuse” will do. Don’t say “malapropism” when “malaprop” will do.
Here are a few more malaprops, from the pen of the talented Darrin Bell, who writes Candorville: