What is a malapropism?

  • it is the unintentional (and usually very funny) misuse of a word or phrase.
  • named after Mrs Malaprop, a character in R.B. Sheridan’s comedy The Rivals.

Some examples

    • “A witness shall not bear falsies against thy neighbor.”
      (Archie Bunker in All in the Family)
    • “groin-acologist” for “gynecologist”
      (Archie Bunker in All in the Family)
    • “Why not? Play captains against each other, create a little dysentery in the ranks.”
      (Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos)
    • “That’s another thing. I don’t want to hear anymore how it was in your day. From now on, keep your antidotes to local color, like Dynoflow or the McGuire Sisters.”
      (Tony Soprano to “Feech” La Manna in The Sopranos)
    • “However, they delineate–quotas, I think, vulcanize society.”
      (George W. Bush)
    • “There’s no stigmata connected with going to a shrink.”
      (Little Carmine in The Sopranos)
    • “Oftentimes, we live in a processed world, you know, people focus on the process and not results.”
      (George W. Bush)
  • Pronunciation: MAL-i-prop-izm

And some more – from

Famous people are far from immune to making mistakes. Unfortunately for them, unlike us “nobodies”, when they come out with a hilarious slip of the tongue it is often recorded for posterity on pages like this! Below is a selection of celebrity malapropisms – from politicians, TV stars, and sports personalities. Can you spot the inappropriately used word in each quotation?

  • “Your ambition – is that right – is to abseil across the English channel?”
       Cilla Black
  • “It is beyond my apprehension.”
       Danny Ozark, baseball team manager
  • “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
  • “And then he [Mike Tyson] will have only channel vision.”
       Frank Bruno, boxer
  • “Cardial – as in cardial arrest.”
       Eve Pollard
  • “Marie Scott… has really plummeted to the top.”
       Alan Weeks
  • “He’s going up and down like a metronome.”
       Ron Pickering
  • “He’s on 90… 10 away from that mythical figure.”
       Trevor Bailey, cricket commentator
  • “Unless somebody can pull a miracle out of the fire, Somerset are cruising into the semi-final.”
       Fred Trueman
  • “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
  • “He was a man of great statue.”
       Thomas Menino, Boston mayor
  • “Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.”
       Dan Quayle, Vice President
  • “Well, that was a cliff-dweller.”
       Wes Westrum, about a close baseball game
  • “If Gower had stopped that [cricket ball] he would have decapitated his hand.”
       Farokh Engineer
  • “We seem to have unleased a hornet’s nest.”
       Valerie Singleton
  • “This series has been swings and pendulums all the way through.”
       Trevor Bailey, cricket commentator
  • “Be sure and put some of those neutrons on it.”
       Mike Smith, ordering a salad at a restaurant
  • “It’s got lots of installation.”
       Mike Smith, describing his new coat 

George W. Bush is particularly famous for his malapropisms, and not without good reason. It is thus not surprising to learn that malapropisms (and other similar verbal slips) are often known by the name Bushisms in the USA. Here’s a selection of George W. Bushisms:

  • “Oftentimes, we live in a processed world, you know, people focus on the process and not results.”
  • “The law I sign today directs new funds… to the task of collecting vital intelligence… on weapons of mass production.”
  • “It will take time to restore chaos and order.”
  • “They have miscalculated me as a leader.”
  • “Natural gas is hemispheric… because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods.”
  • “I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well.”
  • “We need an energy bill that encourages consumption.”
  • “We are making steadfast progress.”

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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