Malaprops

rogersgeorge on May 12th, 2017

Easy post today. Jim Scanarelli must save these up to fit so many into one Gasoline Alley strip. It’s at http://www.gocomics.com/gasolinealley/2017/04/28

Most places I’ve seen the term written as “malapropism,” but the first time I saw it, the word was “malaprop,” and I like that word better. The longer word sounds pretentious. The term comes from a Dickens novel that had a Mrs. Malaprop, who got a lot of her words humorously wrong.

Subscribe to this blog's RSS feed

A Figure of Speech

rogersgeorge on April 19th, 2016

Some time ago I mentioned synechdoche. It’s when you mention part of something to refer to all of it. For instance, cattlemen say “forty head of cattle.” They’re not counting trophies in their parlor. Synechdoche also works in reverse, when you mention the whole thing but mean only a part. You might mention a city, for example, when you really mean only its professional athletic team. Something like “Chicago won the World Series.” By the way, synecdoche is pronounced sin-ek-duck-ee.

Both of these are special cases of a more general figure of speech, metonymy, when you mention something but mean something related to it. They don’t necessarily have to be part or the whole. This comic, from April 4, 2016 reminded me of metonymy:

1ce5aa00d40e01334c4c005056a9545d

Old Bill and his writings are two completely different things. Metonomy. I’m so used to referring to a (famous) person’s writings by the person’s name that I hadn’t thought of it as a figure of speech. So I thought I’d share it with you. Frank and Ernest, by the way, is an excellent comic if you like puns and malaprops.

For the finalé, here’s a line I grabbed from the Los Angeles Times. It contains two synecdoches. Can you find both?

Connecticut defeated Syracuse, 82-51, in the NCAA championship game Tuesday in Indianapolis for its fourth consecutive NCAA title.

Why isn’t “Indianapolis” a synecdoche?

Malaprops

rogersgeorge on February 18th, 2014

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:

Luann

From Luann, Feb 4, 2001.

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: